Bombing in Northern Syria Kills Dozens
Bulent Kilic/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
By HWAIDA SAAD and RICK GLADSTONE
Published: October 18, 2012
BEIRUT, Lebanon — Syrian military aircraft bombed a town held by insurgents along a vital north-south highway in northern Syria on Thursday, leveling apartment buildings and a mosque and killing more than 40 people, including many children, according to activists and graphic videos uploaded on the Internet.
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The aerial bombardment of the town, Maarat al-Noaman in Idlib Province, was among the most intense since the Syrian military began regularly deploying warplanes and helicopters in its effort to crush the armed insurgency against President Bashar al-Assad.
The Local Coordination Committees, an anti-Assad activist group, said “dozens of people were martyred” in the bombardment, which it described as having been carried out by MiG fighters of the Syrian Air Force. A number of videos posted on YouTube showed rescue workers and wailing family members searching for victims crushed in apartment houses that had been destroyed by bombs.
Agence France-Presse, which said it had a correspondent at the scene, reported that 44 corpses had been recovered and that plastic bags marked “body parts” had been placed in a makeshift field hospital.
Maarat al-Noaman is strategically located along the Damascus-Aleppo highway that connects Syria’s two largest cities. Insurgents who have been seeking to cut the Syrian Army’s supply lines to Aleppo took control of Maarat al-Noaman this month.
More than 20,000 people have been killed since the anti-Assad uprising began in March 2011.
The Maarat al-Noaman bombing comes as the new joint special envoy from the United Nations and Arab League, Lakhdar Brahimi, has been seeking support for a cease-fire tied to the Muslim holiday of Id al-Adha, which begins a week from Friday. Mr. Brahimi has said he hopes that a religious reprieve universally respected by Muslims could be the basis not only for a pause in the fighting but perhaps the beginning of a dialogue in Syria.
But neither side in the Syria conflict has shown much interest in talking, and Mr. Brahimi’s prospects for success are uncertain at best.
In a new sign of irreconcilable differences between Mr. Assad and the opposition, an international rights group reported Thursday that 28,000 to 80,000 Syrians had been “forcibly disappeared” by Mr. Assad’s government since the start of the uprising. The rights group, Avaaz, said in a news release on its Web site that it had spoken to many friends and relatives of the missing and was sharing the information with the United Nations Human Rights Council.
“Whether it is women buying groceries or farmers going for fuel, nobody is safe,” said Alice Jay, the campaign director at Avaaz. “This is a deliberate strategy to terrorize families and communities.”