AT least three civilians have been killed and another 10 wounded in shelling of the main rebel stronghold in eastern Ukraine, which is under siege by government forces.

Local residents said a rebel rocket launcher recently seen in the area may have been the target.Donetsk council said four apartment buildings in the southern part of the city were damaged by artillery barrages. Shocked residents gathered around this morning, some leaving flowers on the pavement to commemorate the victims.

Such exchanges of artillery and rocket fire have raised the death toll among civilians as the Ukrainian forces have closed in on the rebels.

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In an ominous signal that fighting will likely escalate further, top rebel leader Alexander Zakharchenko boasted yesterday about seizing 18 Russian-madeGrad systems from the Ukrainian military.