Syrian government airstrikes kill 39

Published January 21st, 2015 - 07:04 GMT

Syrian government airstrikes Tuesday killed at least 39 people, mostly civilians, in two main battlegrounds in the north of the country, a monitor said.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based anti-regime monitoring group, said at least 27 people were killed in airstrikes that targeted a livestock market in the village of Khansaa, south of the city of Qamishli.

Speaking to AFP, Observatory director Rami Abdel-Rahman said nine of those killed in the village of Khansaa near the town of Tal Hamis had been identified by his group as civilians. “More of the dead may be civilians too, but we have not yet been able to confirm that,” he added.

He added that the Tal Hamis area, situated in Hassakeh province which borders Iraq and is home to a sizeable Kurdish population, is under the control of ISIS, although activist groups said that the jihadis have little to no presence in the village where the strike took place.

“There are daily regime and [US-led] coalition airstrikes against ISIS positions in Hassakeh,” Abdel-Rahman said.

Tuesday’s regime airstrikes were especially deadly because they struck a cattle market.

“Some of the bodies were so mutilated by the strikes that people couldn’t tell the human from the animal remains,” Abdel-Rahman said.

Other activists gave estimates ranging from 30 to more than 80 people killed. Conflicting tolls are common in the chaotic aftermath of violent incidents in Syria.

One activist reached over Skype in the nearby provincial capital of Hassakeh said he was given the names of 70 people presumed killed in the strike, and added that another 13 bodies were too badly burned to be identified.

The activist, who goes by the name Siraj, said he obtained the list from wounded survivors who were rushed to a hospital in a nearby town. But he said the toll could be revised as activists interviewed more survivors.

The Syrian Revolution General Commission, a nationwide network of anti-regime activists, said that 30 wounded people were taken to a nearby town and 100 others to the city of Qamishli, but that a number of people had succumbed to the wounds in transit.

The group estimated that some 90 people perished in the attack, which it said was the result of helicopter-dropped “barrel bombs.”

Earlier Tuesday, the Observatory reported a string of regime airstrikes against the town of Saraqeb and the village of Sheikh Mustafa in the northwestern province of Idlib.

Eleven civilians were killed in Saraqeb, and another man died in Sheikh Mustafa, according to the group, which relies on a network of activists and doctors for its reports.

Both towns are under jihadi control, though all of Tuesday’s casualties there were civilians.

Most of Idlib’s countryside is out of government control, but its capital remains in regime hands.

In November, Al-Qaeda affiliate Nusra Front expelled two leading Western-backed rebel groups from their Idlib positions.

The province’s countryside was among the first areas the government lost in the nearly 4-year-old conflict.

An improvement in weather conditions appeared to be responsible for a jump in the pace of airstrikes, as more than 10 were reported by the Observatory in the vicinity of the Abu Dhuhur military airport in Idlib, under siege by the Nusra Front and its allies.

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