Truce ends in Syria's Aleppo as aid heads for besieged town


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The Syrian city of Daraya had a pre-war population of around 80,000 people but that has dropped by almost 90 percent The Syrian city of Daraya had a pre-war population of around 80,000 people but that has dropped by almost 90 percent


The truce in Syria's battleground city Aleppo expired Thursday with no new last-minute extension, as a besieged town near the capital prepared to receive its first humanitarian aid in four years.
World powers are to meet in Vienna next week to try to push faltering peace talks towards ending a five-year conflict that has killed more than 270,000 people and displaced millions.
Regime helicopters dropped barrel bombs on Aleppo's rebel-held eastern districts with no reports of casualties, following air strikes overnight that killed two fighters.
In the Damascus region, aid agencies were to deliver relief supplies to the rebel-held town of Daraya on Thursday, the first since 2012, the International Committee of the Red Cross said.
"This is the first ever humanitarian convoy to this town in the suburbs of Damascus since the beginning of the siege in November 2012," ICRC spokesman Pawel Krzysiek said.
Five trucks organised by the ICRC, the United Nations and the Syrian Arab Red Crescent were to deliver baby milk and medical and school supplies.
The United Nations says more than 486,000 people are living under siege in Syria, more than half of them in areas besieged by the regime.
Jihadists seize village
A temporary truce in Syria's second city Aleppo expired on Wednesday night after it had been extended twice through 11th-hour diplomatic intervention by Moscow and Washington.
The former economic hub has been divided between the regime-held west and rebel-controlled east since 2012 and has been the scene of some of the worst fighting since 2011.
The truce -- brokered by Russia and the United States -- came into force after a spike in violence in the northern city last month that killed more than 300 civilians.
Neighbouring Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said his country's forces are preparing to "clean" the Syrian side of the border of Islamic State (IS) group jihadists after the Turkish town of Kilis came under repeated deadly rocket attacks.
"We are doing all the necessary preparations to clean the other side of the border because of the problems in Kilis," Erdogan said amid persistent speculation of a possible Turkish cross-border ground operation, without giving details.
The meeting between world powers in Austria next Tuesday comes as jihadists have dealt a series of setbacks to President Bashar al-Assad's troops in the country's centre.
In Hama province, Syria's Al-Qaeda affiliate and its rebel allies Thursday captured Zara village, where most residents hail from the same offshoot of Shiite Islam as the president, a monitor said.
"Alawite families were kidnapped and pro-regime fighters taken hostage," the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
In nearby Homs, also central Syria, fighting has raged near the Shaer gas field -- one of the biggest in the province -- after IS seized it from the regime last week.
 Crisis in Syria: the battle for Aleppo
Stalling peace talks
IS also cut a main regime supply road between Palmyra and Homs on Tuesday, just weeks after the regime recaptured the historic city.
Assad's troops retook Palmyra with support from Russian air strikes on March 27 -- an achievement his regime celebrated with concerts in its ancient amphitheatre last week.
But IS now surrounds Palmyra from all directions except the southwest, Observatory chief Rami Abdel Rahman said, adding that IS was within 10 kilometres (around six miles) of the city.
Al-Nusra and the IS are not included in a fragile nationwide ceasefire between the regime and non-jihadist rebels implemented in late February to set the ground for peace talks.
The last round of peace talks in Geneva reached a deadlock in April when the main opposition group suspended its participation over mounting violence and lack of humanitarian access.
Talks have also faltered over the fate of Assad, with the opposition insisting any peace deal must include his departure.
But Damascus says his future is non-negotiable.

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