Illustration: Rebels fire a rocket near Raqqa
Illustration: Rebels fire a rocket near Raqqa Reuters

A rocket attack on regime-held neighborhoods in Syria's second city of Aleppo has killed at least 18 people and wounded dozens more, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

The Observatory said that 10 of those killed in the salvo of rockets fired at the Furqan and Meridian districts were Syrian soldiers, and put the number of wounded at 30.

The attack follows a suicide bombing yesterday which killed at least four people in Damascus, and could be a sign that rebels are resorting to less conventional tactics to attack deep into government-held territory, despite losing ground to a concerted push by pro-regime forces.

Rebel battalions suffered a series of setbacks both in and around Damascus and Aleppo since the start of the government-led operation to root them out, but have since launched a number of counterattacks, including the recent capture of the town of Maalula to the north of the capital.

Rival opposition groups have also sought to put an end to the infighting which seriously hampered their ability to fend-off regime advances. Last month a number of Syria's largest Islamist rebel groups united under the banner of the Islamic Front, putting their joint force of up to 60,000 fighters under one single command.

Meanwhile, Syria's Interior Minister has rejected calls for President Bashar al-Assad to be excluded from any transitional government as part of a future peace deal.

"If anyone thinks we are going to Geneva 2 to hand the keys to Damascus over [to the opposition], then he might as well not go," said Omran al-Zohbi, according to Syrian state-media.

"The decision rests with President Assad. He will lead the period of transition, if there is one. He is the leader of Syria... And he will remain the president of Syria," he maintained.

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