Syrian warplanes bomb rebel-held town, 20 killed

AZAZ, Syria (AP) — Syrian fighter jets screamed through the sky Wednesday over this rebel-held town, dropping bombs that leveled the better part of a poor neighborhood and wounded scores of people, many of them women and children buried under piles of rubble. Activists said more than 20 people were killed.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said 23 people died in the double airstrike and more than 200 were wounded. Mohammed Nour, a local activist reached by phone, put the death toll at 25. Neither figure could be independently confirmed.

Reporters from the Associated Press saw nine dead bodies in the bombings’ immediate aftermath, including a baby.

The bombings sent panicked civilians fleeing for cover. So many were wounded that the local hospital locked its doors, directing residents to drive to the nearby Turkish border so the injured could be treated on the other side. One person’s remains were bundled into a small satchel.

A group of young men found a man buried in the wreckage of destroyed homes, his clothes torn and his limbs dirty, but still alive.

“God is great! God is great!” they chanted as they yanked him out and laid him on a blanket.

Nearby, a woman sat on a pile of bricks that once was her home, cradling a dead baby wrapped in a dirty cloth. Two other bodies lay next to her, covered in blankets. She screamed and threw stones at a TV crew that tried to film her.

The bombing of Azaz, some 30 miles north of Aleppo, shattered the sense of control rebels have sought to project since they took the area from President Bashar Assad’s army last month. Azaz is also the town where rebels have been holding 11 Lebanese Shiites they captured in May.

A blast in central Damascus rattled — but did not injure — U.N. observers, followed by the airstrikes in Azaz. And in tense Lebanon, a powerful Shiite clan that backs Assad said it abducted at least 20 Syrians in retaliation for rebels holding one of their relatives captive in Syria. The rebels accuse the Lebanese man of belonging to Hezbollah, a Shiite Lebanese group allied with Syria and Iran.

The bombing of Azaz brought into stark relief the limits of the rebels’ expanding control of Syria’s north.

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