A fresh round of UN-brokered talks between rival sides in the Syrian conflict resumed in Geneva on Friday but prospects for a breakthrough remain slim, amid ongoing violence across the country.
In Syria, rebels were advancing in Hama Province, as part of their biggest offensive against government forces in months.
The city of Hama remained under government control but the opposition has gained ground in the countryside; rebels have seized 11 villages and several ammunition depots since Tuesday.
The UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitor reported fresh violence on Friday, including shelling by government forces of areas in Sahl al-Ghab, northwest of Hama, and ongoing clashes in the countryside north of the city, as the army sought to retake territory and stop rebels from capturing a military airport.
Clashes also renewed in the capital, Damascus, witnesses said.
Rebels fought with soldiers on the edge of the city centre in the Jobar district for a fifth day on Thursday.
Forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad’s government conducted artillery and air strikes in a bid to restore control of positions they lost earlier this week, after surprise attacks by rebels in the northeast of the city.
Nasr al-Hariri, the Syrian opposition’s chief negotiator in the talks, accused the government of not being committed to peace.
“I would like to remind you that since the beginning of the last round of talks, last month in Geneva, at least 11 schools have been targeted, in addition to at least 11 medical centres, including hospitals and makeshift clinics, and five markets by the Assad regime’s air force and the countries that are supporting the regime.”