- Associated Press - Thursday, October 18, 2012

BEIRUT — Government airstrikes on rebel areas in northern Syria killed at least 43 people and leveled buildings, forcing residents to search mounds of rubble for bodies trapped underneath, anti-regime activists said Thursday.
The strikes late Wednesday and early Thursday hit at least five towns in Idlib and Aleppo provinces.

One video purportedly filmed after an airstrike Thursday on the Idlib city of Maaret al-Numan shows a man holding up two child-sized legs not connected to a body. Another man walks by carrying an arm.

Another video shows 18 white cloth bundles holding the remains of those killed.

Activist claims and videos cannot be independently verified due to restrictions on reporting in Syria. But all videos corresponded to activist reports and appeared to have been filmed where they said they were.

The footage provides a window into the carnage wrought by the Syrian military’s increasing reliance on airstrikes to fight rebels waging a harsh civil war to topple President Bashar Assad.

Rights groups say the airstrikes often hit civilian areas. This week, Human Rights Watch accused Syria of using cluster bombs, which the New York-based group says endanger civilians.

The regime contends that it is fighting terrorists backed by foreign powers who seek to destroy Syria. It also denied using cluster munitions.

An Aleppo-based activist who gave his name as Abu Raed said men were arriving for Wednesday evening prayers when a fighter jet dropped a bomb on the Light of the Martyrs Mosque in the Shaar neighborhood.

The blast destroyed a room used for ritual washing and part of the prayer hall itself, he said via Skype. He said at least 10 people had been killed, though the number could be higher, either because bodies were still trapped in the rubble or because people were buried before being recorded.

Rebels and regime forces have been clashing for months in Aleppo, Syria’s largest city.

Regime aircraft also pounded Maaret al-Numan and surrounding areas on both days. The area has seen heavy fighting since rebels seized the city last week.

One strike hit a neighborhood near the rebel field hospital on Thursday in Maaret al-Numan, activist Fadi Yassin said via Skype. He said it was too early to know how many people had been killed.

A video posted online later showed 18 white cloth bundles the activist said contained the remains of those killed.
Airstrikes also hit three nearby villages on Wednesday, killing 15 people, said Mr. Yassin. Nine of those were in Kafar Nubul, while others died in the villages of Kafrouma and Hass.

Rebel brigades from the surrounding area have poured in to defend the town, which stands along the main highway linking Aleppo to other large Syrian cities farther south.

Online videos have shown them firing mortars at regime troops, and they claimed to have shot down a government helicopter on Wednesday.

As a sign of how little months of international diplomacy has done to stop the bloodshed in Syria, several nations and the U.N. envoy to the Syria conflict are pushing for a temporary cease-fire during a Muslim holiday later this month.

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