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In Syria, more than two dozen dead in latest attack on Aleppo

February 19, 2013|By Patrick J. McDonnell
  • A picture released by Syria's opposition-run Aleppo Media Centre shows Syrians inspecting destruction after an apparent surface-to-surface missile strike late Monday on the northern Syrian city of Aleppo.
A picture released by Syria's opposition-run Aleppo Media Centre… (Shaam News Network )

BEIRUT — More than two dozen people, many of them children, have been killed in the bombardment of a neighborhood in the embattled northern Syrian city of Aleppo, opposition activists said Tuesday.

The incident is the latest reported attack with mass casualties in the historic city, once Syria’s commercial hub but for more than seven months a battleground where remaining residents face frequent threats.

At least 31 civilians, 14 of them children, were killed in the strike late Monday on the rebel-controlled Jabal Badro district, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based pro-opposition group. The opposition blamed government forces and said the attack may have been a surface-to-surface missile. There was no comment from the Syrian government.

Amateur video posted online and said to be from the scene indicated that several multistory buildings had been hit. The video showed men clearing away debris piece by piece and searching for signs of the living or dead amid the rubble. One man swung a sledgehammer in a bid to burrow into the wreckage. A bulldozer removed  chunks of masonry as people combed through the ruins.

Such scenes have become familiar in Aleppo, where many buildings and in some cases entire blocks have been reduced to rubble.

Rebels have been battling the Syrian military for control of the city since July, with neither side making much headway. The city has experienced aerial bombardment, shelling, car bombs, street firefights and persistent sniper fire.

Each side in the conflict controls roughly half of the city, which was once home to more than 2 million people, though many have fled. Power cuts and a shortage of bread, cooking fuel and other necessities have added to  hardships.

Last month, a pair of apparent missile strikes on Aleppo University left more than 80 dead. Barely two weeks later, scores of bodies, apparent victims of summary execution, were found in a city drainage canal. Each side in the conflict blamed the other for the mass killings.

In recent weeks, rebels have shifted strategy and begun to lay siege to military bases and airfields in and around Aleppo, including the international airport and several military air stations. The opposition plan is to deny the government  access to facilities used to launch aerial attacks on insurgents and to ferry supplies to loyalist forces. But the military has put up stiff resistance and has reportedly brought in reinforcements to bolster the defense of Aleppo’s international airport.

In Damascus, meantime, the government said a pair of mortar shells apparently aimed at the Tishreen presidential palace had damaged two hospitals, but caused no casualties. The official news service blamed “terrorists,” its customary term for armed rebels. The official media also reported that a car bomb outside the city had injured five people.

The military has maintained tight control of the capital, and last summer pushed out rebels from several districts in fierce fighting. But insurgents continue to launch attacks from strongholds in the capital’s  suburbs and surrounding rural areas.

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