Syrian foreign minister: Rebels no match for military
A video posted by activists online showed the bloodied bodies of at least two young children covered with blankets and the corpses of three men soaked in blood that ran onto the pavement. The authenticity of the video could not be independently verified.
On Wednesday, warplanes exacted a heavy toll with airstrikes on a residential neighborhood in the rebel-held town of Azaz close to the Turkish border. International watchdog Human Rights Watch said more than 40 people were killed and at least 100 wounded, many of them women and children. AP reporters saw nine bodies in the bombings’ immediate aftermath, including a baby.
The strikes leveled entire blocks in a poor neighborhood and sent panicked civilians fleeing for cover. So many were wounded that the local hospital locked its doors, directing residents to drive their injured to the nearby Turkish border for treatment on the other side.
“This horrific attack killed and wounded scores of civilians and destroyed a whole residential block,” said Anna Neistat, acting emergencies director of Human Rights Watch. “Yet again, Syrian government forces attacked with callous disregard for civilian life.”
Azaz, which is home to around 35,000 people, is also the town where rebels have been holding 11 Lebanese Shiites they captured in May. A series of hostage-takings by rebels — including grabbing a member of a powerful Lebanese Shiite clan — has touched off retaliatory abductions of Syrians in neighboring Lebanon and raised worries about the country being dragged into deeper unrest.
In Lebanon’s eastern Bekaa Valley, near the Syrian border, masked men believed to be backing the Syrian rebels set up roadblocks on a main highway. In a separate incident, gunmen attacked a car driven by a pro-Syrian Lebanese politician, Joseph Abu-Fadel, breaking his car windows with stones as he was driving to Syria. He and three others were slightly injured.
Lebanese military units set up along the main airport highway in Beirut to avoid another protest by pro-Assad mobs, which blocked the road Wednesday and forced passengers to walk to catch their flights.
In Damascus, U.N. humanitarian chief Valerie Amos said the Syrian conflict has “become more intense and is too often indiscriminate” and estimated as many as 2.5 million people are in need of relief assistance.
Later, in Beirut, Amos expressed frustration at Syria’s reluctance to allow more major international aid groups into the country because of Syrian fears that relief supplies could reach rebels.”They don’t want to see that happen,” she said.
In another symbolic blow to Syria, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation suspended Syria from the group during a meeting in Saudi Arabia. The move brought a swift denunciation from Iran, Assad’s main regional ally.
• Associated Press writers Albert Aji in Damascus, Sarah Di Lorenzo in Paris and Nasser Karimi in Tehran contributed to this report.