Car bomb kills 50 in Syria as air strikes pound rebels

Syrian rebels launched a devastating car bomb attack today that killed 50 pro-regime fighters, a watchdog said, as air strikes pounded rebel positions and the opposition met for talks on an overhaul.

The suicide car bomb attack on a military post in the central province of Hama struck early today, killing at least 50 government troops and loyalist militiamen, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

"The post, located at the Centre for Rural Development, is the largest gathering place for troops and pro-regime militiamen in the region," said the Observatory, a Britain-based monitoring group.

Regime aircraft meanwhile continued to pound rebel-held positions around the country, with one air strike killing at least 20 rebel fighters in the town of Harem in the northwestern province of Idlib, the Observatory said.

The rebels have scored significant wins in recent weeks and hold swathes of territory in the country's north, but have come under intense bombardment from the air as President Bashar al-Assad's regime seeks to reverse rebel gains.

Clashes also broke out today around Damascus and in Syria's second city Aleppo, and state television reported a car bomb attack in the capital had left four dead and dozens wounded.

Fighting erupted in southern districts of the capital on the edge of the Yarmuk Palestinian camp, the Observatory said, with Palestinian sources saying 31 people had died from shelling at the camp yesterday and today.

In Aleppo, fighting broke out at a roundabout at the northwestern entrance to the city in Zahraa district and on the airport road to the southeast, the Observatory and residents said.

One resident of a district near Zahraa said today's fighting in the area was the heaviest in recent days.

"It's been almost one week that we are living in terror at night. We hear everything -- gun battles, tank shelling, explosions... The clashes before dawn today were the worst all week," Samir, a 37-year-old pharmacist, told AFP.

The Observatory said at least 105 people, including 55 soldiers and pro-regime fighters, had been killed in the violence today.

The escalating conflict has added urgency to a meeting of the Syrian National Council in Qatar, where the United States is reportedly pressing for a new umbrella organisation to unite the country's fractured opposition.

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