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Barrel bombing kills 11 children in Syria's Aleppo

Rebel fire killed 8 civilians, including 2 children, in the government-held west section of Aleppo
A Syrian man carries a wounded child following a barrel bomb attack on the Bab al-Nairab neighbourhood of the northern Syrian city of Aleppo on 25 August 2016 (AFP)

Eleven children were killed on Thursday in a barrel bomb attack carried out by government forces on a rebel-held neighbourhood of Syria's Aleppo city, a monitor said.

"Fifteen civilians, among them 11 children, were killed in a barrel bomb attack on the Bab al-Nairab neighbourhood" in the south of Aleppo city, said the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

The group also reported eight civilians, including two children, were killed on Thursday in rebel fire on the government-held west of the city.

An AFP journalist in Bab al-Nairab saw rescue workers and civilians digging through the rubble of collapsed buildings.

One man carried out the lifeless body of a baby no bigger than his forearm. Its eyes were closed and its body was white with dust except for speckles and smears of blood.

Nearby, a civil defence worker protected the face of another dead child as his colleagues scraped away the rubble encasing the rest of the child's body.

Syria's military has been accused of regularly using barrel bombs - crude, explosive devices - on rebel-held areas that are home to civilians, and other parties to the conflict are not known to have used the weapons.

President Bashar al-Assad and his government deny using barrel bombs.

Once Syria's economic powerhouse, Aleppo city has been ravaged by the conflict that began with anti-government protests in March 2011.

The city has been roughly divided between rebel control in the east and government control in the west since mid-2012, with each side bombarding the other and causing civilian casualties.

Fighting for Aleppo city has intensified since government troops seized control of the last supply route into rebel-held areas in mid-July.

After a nearly three-week siege, rebels early this month linked up with opposition-held neighbourhoods via a new road from the city's south, in a major blow to fighters loyal to the government.

But fighting has continued near the new supply line, which has been bombarded almost daily of late, affecting supplies coming into the city's opposition-controlled neighbourhoods.

An AFP correspondent in the city's rebel-held east said on Thursday that vegetables and meat were becoming more scarce than in days after the siege was broken.

A litre of fuel had risen from 700 Syrian pounds ($3.25, 2.90 euros) earlier this month to 1,200 Syrian pounds, he said.

Around 250,000 people live in the city's eastern districts, while another 1.2 million live in its western neighbourhoods. 

More than 290,000 people have been killed in Syria since the conflict began, according to the Observatory.

Thursday's barrel bombing came as rebels and Syria's army agreed to a deal to evacuate all residents and insurgents from the besieged Damascus suburb of Daraya, a rebel leader said, ending one of the longest stand-offs in the five-year conflict.

Syria's army has surrounded rebels and civilians, and blocked food deliveries in Daraya since 2012, regularly bombing the area just 4 miles from President Bashar al-Assad's seat of power.

It was one of the first places to see peaceful protests against Assad's rule, and fought off repeated attempts to retake it by government forces as the conflict escalated into civil war.

"We reached agreement on the evacuation of all of the people of Daraya civilians and fighters," said Captain Abu Jamal, the head of the Liwa Shuda al-Islam, the biggest of two main rebel groups inside Daraya.

The evacuation would start on Friday and last for two or three days, he added.

Local council sources said around 5,000 people would be evacuated from the suburb which, before the civil war, was home to a quarter of a million people.

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