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4 car bombs, 250 mortar rounds rock Syrian Shiite towns

DAMASCUS, Sept. 18 (Xinhua) -- The jihadi groups on Friday detonated four booby-trapped vehicles and fired over 250 mortar shells into two predominantly-Shiite towns in northern Syria, a monitor group reported.

"Violent explosions" were heard rocking the towns of Foa and Kafraya in the northwestern province of Idlib, as part of a fresh wave of attacks the jihadi rebel groups recently unleashed.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said it had no immediate death toll or losses assessment of Friday's attacks.

It said the Syrian air force carried out airstrikes against the rebel positions in Binnish, a town in Idlib, which has largely fallen to the rebels, except the two Shiite towns and some points in its countryside.

Earlier this month, the rebels in Idlib captured the Abu al-Duhur airbase after battles against the Syrian government troops.

The Shiite towns have been besieged for months, following the rebels' capture of the surrounding Idlib towns.

Halting the rebel attacks on Kafraya and Foa was negotiated between rebel delegations and Iran in recent weeks, but the negotiations failed to settle the situation in the towns as the rebels set demands that couldn't be met by the government forces.

Meanwhile, people from the two Shiite towns who live in Damascus staged several rallies recently at the international road of the Damascus airport, demanding that the government forces and the Lebanese Hezbollah group transport them to Foa and Kafraya.

The Syrian crisis, which has been dragging for four years, has taken a sectarian turn, pitting Sunni-led insurgency and ultra-radical groups like the Islamic State and Nusra Front against other minority groups in Syria, mainly the Shiite sect, to which the Alwaite minority of President Bashar al-Assad belongs.

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