Rescue workers search for victims
BEIRUT — Syrian rescue workers on Tuesday continued their search for victims still under the rubble a day after airstrikes hit a busy market in a rebel-held town in the country’s north, killing at least 61 people, according to a monitoring group and rescuers.
According to the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, there were at least three airstrikes on the market in the town of Atareb on Monday — those killed included six women, five children and three police officers. The Observatory’s director, Rami Abdurrahman, said the rest were male civilians.
The Syrian Civil Defence searchand-rescue volunteers, known as the White Helmets, said they gave up hope of finding more survivors after dawn, though recovery efforts continued. They said the death toll had climbed to at least 61 on Tuesday; 90 people were injured.
Atareb and the countryside around it remain outside the control of the government in Damascus. Government forces retook the nearby city of Aleppo, Syria’s largest, following a ferocious assault on the rebel-held neighbourhoods there in 2015.
The town population swelled with the arrival of Syrians who fled from fighting elsewhere in the country’s north. Atarab’s market drew not just the townspeople but also shoppers from the countryside and nearby villages.
“You can see the body fragments in the rubble,” said Yasser Hmeish, a medical technician at the scene. “This morning I saw civilians and rescue workers trying to lift the cement chunks to find the missing.”
“There were restaurants, mobile phone shops, butchers: It was a market in the full sense of the word,” Hmeish added. “It’s been completely destroyed.” Videos from the scene show a totally collapsed building amid other smaller buildings, and rescuers stepping over the rubble to get to the areas where they pull out survivors.
The airstrikes ripped through the market, crushed buildings and damaged an adjacent traffic police station.
The Observatory said it couldn’t determine whether Russia or the Syrian government was behind the attack. The opposition Syrian National Coalition accused Russia, Syrian President Bashar Assad’s chief military backer.
A Syrian man carries a child following an airstrike on the rebel-held town of Atareb in Syria’s northern Aleppo province on Monday.