Syria rebels seize parts of military airport

Syrian rebels have taken control of large parts of the Minnigh military airport in northern Syria, where a regime commander was killed on Saturday, a watchdog group said on Sunday.

"General Ali Mahmud was killed on Saturday with two of his bodyguards, and the rebels have taken control of a large part of the airport but fighting is continuing," Rami Abdel Rahman, director of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, told AFP.

Since the beginning of this year, rebel fighters have been trying to seize a string of northern airports, including Aleppo international airport, and the Jarrah, Kwiyres, Minnigh and Nayrab military fields.

They took Jarrah military airport on February 12.

Elsewhere, the Observatory reported regime air raids on the Jubar neighbourhood of the capital Damascus and against the rebel-held town of Raqa.

There were also sporadic air raids targeting orchards south of Banias, where the bodies of 62 people were found on Saturday after an assault by government forces.

The opposition has said the growing number of reported killings in Syria raises the spectre of a campaign of "ethnic cleansing".

In southern Daraa province, meanwhile, the Observatory reported clashes between rebels and Syrian troops trying to reopen a highway.

In central Homs, along the Lebanese border, fighting continued between regime forces and rebels as the army tries to gain control of the key town of Qusayr.

Violence throughout Syria on Sunday left at least 35 people dead, according to an initial toll from the Observatory.

It said at least 148 people were killed on Saturday -- 40 civilians, 74 rebels and 34 soldiers.

bur-sk/srm