Seven children among 77 dead in Syria

Shelling in the southern Syrian town of Herak killed six children on Tuesday, a human rights group said, taking the nationwide toll to 77 as helicopters strafed the country's second city Aleppo.

"At least seven civilians, including six children, were killed by regime forces shelling of the besieged town of Herak," the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

A video distributed by the Britain-based watchdog showed the bodies of dead children, including a young girl in a pink and white dress, lying on a blood-smeared floor, the faces of some of them covered in blood.

"Herak has been under shelling for 10 days," an unidentified man says in the amateur video.

"The world is watching. Where are the Arabs and Muslims when these children are killed during Ramadan?" he pleaded, referring to the Muslim holy month which began last week.

"Bashar, I hope your children will suffer the same fate," he screamed, addressing President Bashar al-Assad.

The Observatory put the nationwide death toll for Tuesday at 77, including eight people killed when regime forces put down a prison mutiny in Aleppo, which followed a similar rebellion at the main prison in the central city of Homs.

An inmate, who said he had managed to smuggle a mobile phone into the prison, told AFP: "The situation after the security forces came in is horrifying. All I can hear is the sound of screaming.

"They are viciously torturing the detainees who they suspect of leading the mutiny," the man added.

Fighting raged in Aleppo, with the Observatory reporting clashes between troops and rebel fighters in the Sukari, Sakhur and Hanano neighbourhoods.

A spokesman for the rebel Military Council told AFP on Monday that opposition fighters had "liberated" multiple neighbourhoods of the the city, including Salaheddin, as the army continued to bombard the districts.

At least 21 people -- 19 civilians and two rebels -- were killed in violence in the province on Tuesday.

In Damascus, where the army has been battling to retake control of districts held by rebel forces, the Observatory reported offensives in the Qadam and Assali neighbourhoods, and heavy fighting in Al-Hajar Al-Aswad, where tanks were being used.

"Syrian regime forces have attacked the Qadam and Assali districts, launching a wave of raids and arrests," the watchdog said.

"The districts of Mazzeh (west), Barzeh (northeast) and Midan (south) are under the total military control of the army, but there are daily arrests," Observatory director Rami Abdel Rahman said.

Elsewhere in the country, the Observatory reported that troops were pounding the rebel district of Rastan in Homs province as well as the Kurdish Mountain in the northeastern province of Latakia.

The watchdog said the army was firing "five to seven shells a minute" in its "heaviest bombardment since the beginning of military operations in the region."

And in the central province of Hama, shelling of the village of Latamneh killed six people, including a child, the Observatory said.

Also on Tuesday, an artists' association reported the death under torture of prominent sculptor Wael Qastun, at the hands of the security forces in Homs.

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