Eight children among nine dead in Syria shelling

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A shell fired by the Syrian army hit a pickup truck in the northwestern province of Idlib on Friday killing a woman and eight children, a watchdog said.

"A mother, her four children and four nephews were killed and their bodies torched" in the bombardment of the rebel-held town of Saraqeb, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

They were among at least 25 civilians who were killed in violence on Friday. Twenty-five rebels also died, according to the Britain-based watchdog and reported by AFP.
Meanwhile, gunmen killed a government official in a Damascus restaurant, Syrian state media and activists reported as regime troops and rebels fought fierce battles near the Lebanese border, killing 18 people in Syria’s third largest city of Homs, AP reported.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the government official, Ali Ballan, was gunned down late Thursday in Mazzeh, a western neighborhood of the Syrian capital. Ballan was head of public relations at the Ministry of Social Affairs and a member of Syria’s relief agency, the Observatory said.

The state-run SANA news agency said “terrorists” opened fire on Ballan while he was dining at the restaurant, killing him instantly. The government refers to opposition fighters as terrorists, denying there is an insurgency against President Bashar Assad’s regime.

Since Syria’s crisis began two years ago, a number of government and security officials, as well as regime supporters, have been assassinated in the capital, Damascus, AP said.

Last month, a suicide bomber struck a mosque, killing a top Sunni Muslim preacher and outspoken Assad supporter, Sheikh Mohammad Said Ramadan al-Buti.

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