BEIRUT, Aug 19: Syrian children had little to celebrate on Sunday as Muslims marked the first day of the Eid religious festival in the grip of unrelenting violence.

“The children in the Old City district are sad because there are no sweets, no food, no gifts, no new clothes this Eid,” said a young man from the city of Homs in central Syria who gave Abu Bilal as his name.

The rebel-held Old City district has been under siege by regime forces for more than two months, and rights watchdogs have warned that hundreds of families are trapped there.

“Today I went to pray in the only mosque still standing in the neighbourhood,” Abu Bilal said via Skype. “We put sandbags on the windows before we started praying, in case the army shelled the mosque.” Two children were among at least nine people killed in violence on the first day of Eidul Fitr, the festival celebrated by Muslims across the world to mark the end of the holy month of Ramadan.

“A boy and a girl were killed by regime forces' shelling in the (rebel-held) town of Maaret al-Numan” in the northwestern province of Idlib, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

According to the Observatory, violence has killed more than 23,000 people since March last year, including 1,300 children, while the UN puts the death toll at over 17,000 and says about 2.5 million are in need of help.

While President Bashar al-Assad made a rare public appearance with top officials for Eid prayers at a Damascus mosque, demonstrators took to the streets of the capital and other cities to vent their rage at the regime.—AFP

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