Regime bomb attacks on Aleppo kill at least 20 civilians
Over three thousand civilians have been killed in Aleppo by regime barrel bomb attacks since January 2014, according to data from the Violations Documentation Center. (AFP/File)
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A barrel bomb attack by a Syrian government helicopter killed and wounded up to 50 civilians in Aleppo on Tuesday, according to a human rights monitoring group.
At least 20 civilians died and another 30 were wounded when a regime helicopter dropped an explosive barrel near a garage in the Jesr al-Haj neighborhood in Aleppo, according to the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
Further barrel bomb attacks in Aleppo's al-Shaqif neighborhood to the north produced no known casualties, the group says.
The attack comes one week after Amnesty International released a report accusing the Syrian government of "crimes against humanity" for intentionally conducting airstrikes on civilian areas of Aleppo.
Between January 2014 and March 2015, barrel bombing by the Syrian regime in Aleppo killed 3,124 civilians and 35 rebel fighters, according to data from the Violations Documentation Center, a Syria-based monitoring group, which is cited in the report.
Amnesty International describes "barrel bombs" as "large improvised explosive devices (IEDs), which are dropped from helicopters." The weapons, which are notoriously inaccurate, "consist of oil barrels, fuel tanks or gas cylinders that have been packed with explosives, fuel and metal fragments -- such as ball bearings, nails and machine parts -- to increase their lethal effect," the report states.
SOHR reports most of the bodies in Tuesday's attack were charred.
The incident also comes a day after airstrikes in Idlib province -- specifically in the countryside around Jisr al-Shughour -- killed 10 civilians, including five children and four women, and wounded 20 others, according to SOHR.
The attack was one of up to 21 airstrikes around the city on Monday, as fighting in the area rages between allied Islamist rebel factions, including al-Qaida's Nusra Front, and Syrian government troops, which are, according to SOHR, bolstered by support from "the Afghan brigade of al-Fatimiyeen, Shia fighters from Iraq, Iranian officers and Hezbollah militiamen."
Jisr al-Shughour fell to allied Islamist rebels late last month as the Syrian army was forced to the town's outskirts, where it began hitting rebel positions with air attacks. The town was the last major urban stronghold held by the Syrian government in Idlib province.
Amnesty International reports a decrease in the amount of barrel bomb attacks in Aleppo between September 2014 and March 2015 but notes a dramatic recent increase as portions of Syria's northwest, such as Idlib province, have slipped further from government control.
In one such strike late last month, up to 60 civilians were killed in wounded in the Idlib province town of Darkoush on the Turkish border.
In a February interview with the BBC, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad denied his forces targeted civilian areas with barrel bombs.
The month prior, SOHR reported 504 regime airstrikes -- including hundreds of barrel bomb attacks in places such as Aleppo and Idlib -- had killed 127 civilians and wounded at least 500 others in a 96-hour period.