Airstrikes toll soars to more than 100

THE WASHINGTON POST, AFP-JIJI

An unusually intense wave of government airstrikes has killed more than 100 people in rebel-held neighborhoods in the northern Syrian city of Aleppo, part of a pattern of intensifying violence taking shape ahead of peace talks next month, activists and doctors said Monday.

The assault, which began Sunday and continued into Tuesday, was the heaviest yet witnessed in Aleppo. It served as a reminder of the government’s continued military edge over the lightly armed rebels as the warring sides jostle for advantage in the lead-up to the negotiations.

Most of the dead in Aleppo were civilians who were killed when crude barrel bombs — oil drums filled with a mixture of explosives and fuel — were dropped by choppers over densely populated neighborhoods. One barrel hit a school, killing six students and four teachers. Others fell on apartment buildings, and one struck a busy intersection, among a total of 17 strikes through Monday. At least 13 more people — including two children — were killed in fresh strikes Tuesday, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

Frantic residents coated in dust hunted for survivors under smoke-filled skies as parents led children past piles of rubble and bodies, according to videos of the scene posted on YouTube. The Aleppo Medical Council said Monday that 128 people were killed and more than 200 injured.

“These were the most criminal and violent airstrikes ever,” said Ammar Zakaria, a physician whose hospital near Aleppo’s Old City treated scores of patients.