Syrians search for survivors amidst the rubble following an airstrike in Aleppo on December 17, 2013
Syrians search for survivors amidst the rubble following an airstrike in Aleppo on December 17, 2013 © Mohammed al-Khatieb - AFP/File
Syrians search for survivors amidst the rubble following an airstrike in Aleppo on December 17, 2013
Last updated: December 28, 2013

Syrian air strike on market and hospital in Aleppo kills 25

Helicopters dropped TNT-packed barrels on a vegetable market and next to a hospital in Syria's northern city Aleppo Saturday, killing at least 25 civilians including children, a watchdog said.

"The number of people killed has risen to 25 including two women, four children, a teenager and a media activist," the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said, updating an earlier toll.

"The number is likely to rise further because several people have been critically injured," the Britain-based group added.

The Syrian Revolution General Commission, a network of activists on the ground, called the bombing a "massacre".

"The raid targeted a crowded market where people were buying vegetables and home appliances," it said. "Many buildings have been damaged, and one collapsed."

The Observatory and activists in Aleppo say President Bashar al-Assad's regime has waged a massive aerial offensive against the city and nearby villages since December 15, killing more than 400 people, mostly civilians.

Warplanes have launched rockets and helicopters dropped so-called barrel bombs, often on densely populated rebel-held areas, terrorising residents.

Rights organisations and Arab and Western countries have condemned the offensive as "indiscriminate" and "unlawful", but Assad's regime says it is targeting "terrorists".

Activists distributed footage of the badly damaged market area.

"We have picked up pieces of children's bodies -- they were there with two women and a man," said one man, pointing at a destroyed vehicle.

"Inside the car there were bodies of women with their heads severed. We put the remains in bags... May God take his vengeance against you, tyrant," he added of Assad.

Observatory director Rami Abdel Rahman said the regime is using the same tactic for Aleppo as it has for other besieged rebel-controlled areas.

"The regime wants to take back rebel areas through an air offensive, terrorising the civilians and pushing out the rebels," said Abdel Rahman.

"It will then try to besiege these areas, even if it doesn't have enough troops for that right now."

Activists said Ahmad al-Hajji, an independent anti-regime activist, was killed in the market attack.

They distributed a recording of Hajji taking part in a discussion on Syria that was broadcast on an official television channel months into the anti-Assad revolt.

"Stop treating us like idiots," Hajji said, calling on "all media (in Syria), both public and private... to show how the demonstrations are being suppressed. We should be protecting these demonstrations."

Syria's war broke out after Assad's regime unleashed a brutal crackdown on dissent when an Arab Spring-style revolt calling for change erupted.

In Aleppo province, helicopters dropped barrel bombs near Aleppo prison, which has been under siege by the jihadist Al-Nusra Front and other Islamist groups for eight months.

The Observatory says regime warplanes are using air bases in Aleppo province, notably Nairab east of the provincial capital.

Later Saturday, warplanes fired rockets near a girls' school in Azaz in Aleppo province, as well as at Sheikh Eissa village, killing one man and wounding seven children, the Observatory said.

Near Damascus, activists said several vehicles carrying aid had reached the town of Moadamiyet al-Sham, despite a truce between regime and opposition fighters breaking down two days ago.

The media centre of the opposition local council in the Moadamiyet al-Sham said on Facebook "a number of cars carrying emergency supplies" had entered the area.

Rebels had raised the national flag above the town under the 72-hour ceasefire that was supposed to allow food in to Moadamiyet al-Sham, which has been besieged by government forces for more than a year.

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