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Airstrike in Aleppo kills at least 36

Dozens, including 15 children, die when Syrian regime launches air raids on rebel districts of the northern city.
A building catches fire after an airstrike on a rebel-held area of Aleppo, where air attacks have become commonplace. Mohammed Al Khatieb / AFP
A building catches fire after an airstrike on a rebel-held area of Aleppo, where air attacks have become commonplace. Mohammed Al Khatieb / AFP

BEIRUT// At least 36 people, including 15 children, were killed in Syrian regime air raids on rebel districts of the northern city of Aleppo yesterday, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

They were killed when regime forces unleashed an aerial attack using explosive-laden barrels over the eastern Aleppo districts of Sakhur, Ard al-Hamra, Ansari and Haydariyeh, said Observatory director Rami Abdel Rahman.

Fifteen children, an 18-year-old boy and a woman were among 36 people killed, he said, warning that the toll could rise because many people were wounded, some in critical condition.

The Aleppo Media Centre (AMC), an activist network on the ground, reported several air attacks on rebel-held areas of the city.

Once Syria’s commercial capital, Aleppo has suffered massive destruction since a rebel offensive in July last year.

The city is now divided into pro- and anti-regime areas, and according to the AMC, the regime uses its air force on a near daily basis to target rebel districts.

An AMC activist in the city, Mohammed Al Khatieb, said in a message posted on Facebook that the raids were “unprecedented.”

“Everyone is looking up at the skies and watching the planes. But there’s nothing to be done,” he said.

Barrel bombs were dropped on some 10 neighbourhoods of the city, Mr Khatieb said. “Many people have been killed.”

The bombings came a day after the Syrian Red Crescent on Saturday delivered food and medicine to the Aleppo central prison, which has been under rebel siege for eight months.

Earlier this week the government announced an amnesty for scores of prisoners held on criminal charges for humanitarian reasons.

Fifteen prisoners have already been released, escorted out of the jail by volunteers, according to the Observatory while 341 other detainees are awaiting to be freed.

Meanwhile, in Adra, a town north-east of Damascus, at least 32 civilians have been confirmed dead since Wednesday, when Islamist rebels launched an offensive aimed at capturing the key entrance into the capital, said the Observatory.

The group, which had earlier reported a toll of 28, added that at least four of the dead were women, and that most of the fatalities belonged to President Bashar Al Assad’s Alawite sect.

“Reports have also surfaced of dozens of people missing from Adra,” said the Observatory, which relies on a network of doctors, activists and lawyers on the ground for its reports.

The army has vowed to “crush” Islamist rebels in the industrial town, which has seen fierce fighting for five days.

Most of the country’s Alawites — whose religion is an offshoot of Shiite Islam — support Mr Assad, and many members of other minority groups fear a Sunni Islamist victory in the Syrian conflict.

More than 126,000 people have been killed in Syria since March 2011, and millions more have fled their homes.

Also yesterday, the first United Nations aid flight from Iraq to Syria took off after being delayed for several days due to bad weather.

“Over the next few days, we will be sending to [the northern city of] Qamishli... 400 tonnes of food,” Abeer Etefa, senior Middle East spokeswoman for the UN World Food Programme said.

The flight that left on Sunday was carrying about 40 metric tonnes of aid, Ms Etefa said.

The UN refugee agency (UNHCR) and children’s agency Unicef were also to send aid into Syria via air.

The airlift, which has been given the go-ahead by both the Syrian and Iraqi governments, was initially expected to begin on Thursday, but was delayed by a storm that shuttered the airport in Qamishli.

* Agencies

Updated: December 15, 2013 04:00 AM

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