Syrian soldiers take in the scene of a bombing outside a hotel in Damascus,… (Bassem Tellawi, Associated…)
BEIRUT — Air attacks by the Syrian government killed at least 30 people Wednesday in the rebel-controlled town of Azaz in one of the bloodiest days in the country's conflict, according to activists.
The town, north of the city of Aleppo and just a few miles from the Turkish border, was pounded for hours by warplanes that left homes flattened and about 200 people injured, regime opponents reported. Azaz has been the target of many attacks by forces loyal to President Bashar Assad.
"They are still removing bodies and taking the injured to Turkey," said Khalid Yassin, an activist in the nearby town of Tal Rifaat. "There is a huge wave of exodus from the town."
He said he had spoken to residents during the day but that cellphone communications were extremely limited.
Online videos said to have been taken in the town showed residents pulling victims from under rubble, several of them children.
The fatalities were among the nearly 200 people reported killed across Syria on Wednesday — almost half the victims were in Aleppo and its suburbs — and included 23 people slain execution-style in fields in the suburbs of the capital, Damascus, activists said.
The violence also spilled over into neighboring Lebanon, where more than 20 Syrians and at least one Turkish man were abducted in retaliation for the capture of a man who Free Syrian Army rebels said was a Hezbollah operative.
Speaking on Lebanese TV, family members of Hasan Mokdad, who was shown earlier in an online video being held by a group of armed rebel fighters, said they have responded to the abduction in a similar manner.
"For Hasan, we are willing to kidnap 2 million Syrians," one family member said.
The family released its own video showing several Syrian men who said they were working in Lebanon with the rebels, helping to smuggle weapons across the border.
The Lebanese Information Ministry quoted family members of the powerful Shiite Muslim clan as vowing to continue their actions until Mokdad is released.
"We have barely executed 1% of our goals until now. We know the names of those hosting members of the Free Syrian Army, and we are capable of reaching them in Aley, Tripoli and Iqlim el Kharoub in case of any act against us," a family representative told an official news agency, listing various Lebanese locations.
But Lebanese President Michel Suleiman warned against threatening the safety of those in Lebanon, regardless of national origin. "Spreading of chaos does not bring back any kidnapped nor restore any right; instead, it shatters all rights and endangers the lives of citizens," he said.
Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, which have been supporting the Syrian rebels, warned their citizens to leave Lebanon.
Meanwhile, three people were injured Wednesday in Damascus in a bombing that struck near a military compound and the hotel where United Nations monitors have been staying.
The Free Syrian Army took responsibility for the blast, which reportedly targeted a meeting of military officers at the compound in the heavily guarded Arkan neighborhood and suggested that top officials remain vulnerable to such rebel attacks.
No U.N. monitors staying at the nearby Dama Rose hotel were injured in the explosion, which occurred as their four-month monitoring mission was nearing an end.
"We promise this criminal regime more targeted and large operations to come inside the capital that will break its back, until it reaches the presidential palace," read a joint statement by two Free Syrian Army militias.
The rebel group said it received inside help in the bombing. A bomb attack last month that killed four of Assad's top security officials was also thought to have had inside help.
"The terrorist explosion is another attempt by those who seek to distort the civilized image of Syria and its people," said Deputy Foreign Minister Fayssal Mekdad, speaking to reporters at the Dama Rose hotel.
Also Wednesday, a United Nations Human Rights Council panel reported that Syrian government forces and allied militias have waged a brutal campaign of murder, torture, rape and indiscriminate shelling of civilians. The actions amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity, the panel said.
Rebels also committed war crimes, including murder, torture and unlawful killings, the panel concluded, but not on the same scale or with the same frequency as government forces.
Activists say more than 17,000 people have died in the violence; the Syrian regime says about 8,000 members of the government forces and civilians had died as of early July.
Times staff writer Emily Alpert in Los Angeles contributed to this report.