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Civilians killed as rebels shell government-held areas of Aleppo

At least 19 people killed and scores injured in rebel bombardment, with civilian casualties mounting on both sides of divided Syrian city's frontline
A boy runs following a government air strike on a rebel-held neighbourhood of Aleppo on Sunday (AA)

At least 19 civilians were reported killed and 120 wounded on Monday in a rebel bombardment of Syrian government-held districts of the northern city of Aleppo, a monitoring group said.

"Shells fired... by rebel groups at districts under regime control left 19 dead, including three children, and 120 wounded," Rami Abdel Rahman, the head of the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, told the AFP news agency.

Syria's SANA state news agency reported 16 dead and 86 wounded by "fire from the terrorist groups Nusra Front [al-Qaeda's affiliate in Syria] and its allies" on at least five residential districts.

The Observatory also reported four people including a child killed by government fire targeting rebel-held neighbourhoods of the city.

Since Friday, at least 86 civilians have been killed in the divided city, with at least 45 of those killed in air strikes by pro-government warplanes.

The Syrian government is accused of dropping indiscriminate barrel bombs on rebel-held neighbourhoods.

Several districts of the city, once Syria's commercial hub, have also seen sporadic fighting between government forces and rebel groups.

Rebel-held neighbourhoods in eastern Aleppo have had their water and electricity supplies cut by bombardment, an AFP journalist said.

Fighting in the city has been ongoing despite an internationally brokered partial ceasefire that is supposed to have been in place since the end of February.

The Nusra Front is among groups excluded from the ceasefire because it is recognised as a terrorist organisation by the United Nations, even though it's fighters sometimes cooperate with rebel groups which were included in the ceasefire agreement.

The Observatory on Monday also released new casualty figures for the number of people it estimates have been killed by airstrikes in Syria carried out by the US-led international coalition fighting the Islamic State (IS) group.

It said that at least 391 civilians and approximately 4,200 IS militants were among almost 4,800 people killed in the air campaign.

At least 136 fighters from other groups including the Nusra Front have also been killed, according to its figures.

US President Barack Obama said on Monday that the US would send up to 250 special forces soldiers to Syria to support rebel groups fighting against IS.

"A small number of American special operations forces are already on the ground in Syria and their expertise has been critical as local forces have driven ISIL out of key areas," he said, using an alternative acronym for the militant group.

"So, given the success, I have approved the deployment of up to 250 additional US personnel in Syria, including special forces, to keep up this momentum."

Syria's main opposition group, the High Negotiations Committee (HNC), welcomed the announcement, but a spokesman said: "Syria will not be free of terrorism until we see the end of the Assad regime's reign of terror."

Relief groups on Monday also began their second major aid delivery in a week to tens of thousands of besieged people in central Syria, a Red Cross spokesman told AFP.

Thirty-five trucks delivered aid to Rastan and surrounding rural areas in central Homs province, said International Committee of the Red Cross spokesman Pawel Krzysiek.

ICRC and the Syrian Arab Red Crescent are delivering aid including food parcels, medicine, nappies and 100 delivery kits for pregnant women.

Rastan and nearby villages are home to 120,000 people, half of whom had fled fighting in neighbouring Hama province.

Last Thursday, aid groups sent 65 trucks into the town in the largest aid delivery yet in Syria.

More than four million people live in besieged or hard-to-reach areas with little or no access to food or medicines.