NGO: Gunmen kill pro-regime family near Damascus

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Unidentified gunmen stormed a Damascus home and killed five members of a family supporting the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, a monitoring group said on Sunday.

In the Mediterranean region of western Syria, a battle between rebels and regime forces left more than 30 dead, said the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

“Five members of one pro-regime family -- a man, his wife and their three daughters -- were killed [on Saturday] by unidentified gunmen in the district of Rukn al-Din” in northern Damascus, said the Observatory.

Their fourth child, an eight-year-old boy, survived by hiding in the bathroom, said the Britain-based group.

It added that one of the daughters was a schoolgirl while the other two were university students.

Observatory chief Rami Abdel Rahman said there were conflicting reports about how the family was killed.

Some sources said they were shot dead, while others said they were “slaughtered,” he told AFP.

He also said the family was likely Alawite, because they come from the coastal province of Latakia, a stronghold of the minority community to which belongs the Assad clan.

The Alawites are an offshoot of Shiite Islam while most rebels fighting to overthrow the government are Sunni Muslims.

In southern Damascus, a car bomb exploded at a checkpoint manned by regime and pro-regime militia troops near the Sinaa and Bustan al-Dour neighborhoods, said the Observatory.

State news agency SANA said a civilian was wounded in the blast which caused material damage and it blamed the explosion on “terrorists” -- the regime’s term for rebels.

Regime forces, meanwhile, kept up their shelling campaign against Barzeh in northern Damascus and Jobar in the east, said the Observatory.

The army has tried for months to uproot rebels lodged on the outskirts of the capital.

The Observatory also reported fierce clashes in the Jabal al-Akrad region of Latakia on the Mediterranean coast that killed at least 12 opposition fighters and 19 army and pro-regime paramilitary troops.

Sunday’s Jabal al-Akrad violence broke out after rebels assaulted several army checkpoints in the area, said the Observatory, adding that the loyalist air force deployed warplanes to hit back at the opposition forces.

In Ariha, in the northwestern province of Idlib, a child was among four people killed in army shelling, the group added.

Sunday’s violence comes a day after at least 148 people were killed across Syria, said the Observatory, which relies on a vast network of activists and medics for its information.

More than 100,000 people have been killed in Syria’s war, the UN says. Millions more have been forced by violence to flee their homes.