Government airstrike kills 60 in Syria

At­tack ap­pears to be government re­sponse to new rebel of­fen­sive.

Austin American-Statesman - - FRONT PAGE - By Ben Hub­bard

A government at­tack on a bak­ery in a rebel-held town in cen­tral Syria leaves bod­ies and de­bris scat­tered and casts a pall over talks to end the na­tion’s civil war.

A government airstrike on a bak­ery in a rebel-held town in cen­tral Syria killed more than 60 peo­ple on Sun­day, cast­ing a pall over a visit by the in­ter­na­tional en­voy charged with ne­go­ti­at­ing an end to the coun­try’s civil war.

The strike on the town of Hal­faya left bod­ies and de­bris scat­tered up and down a street, and more than a dozen dead and wounded were trapped in tan­gled heap of dirt and rub­ble.

The at­tack ap­peared to be the government re­sponse to a newly an­nounced rebel of­fen­sive seek­ing to drive the Syr­ian army from a con­stel­la­tion of towns and vil­lage north of the cen­tral city of Hama. Hal­faya was the first of the area’s towns to be “lib­er­ated” by rebel fight­ers, and ac­tivists saw Sun­day’s at­tack as pay­back.

“Hal­faya was the first and big­gest vic­tory in the Hama coun­try­side,” said Hama ac­tivist Mousab Al­hamadee via Skype. “That’s why the regime is pun­ish­ing them in this way.”

The to­tal death toll re­mained un­clear, but the Bri­tain-based Syr­ian Ob­ser­va­tory for Hu­man Rights said more than 60 peo­ple were killed. That num­ber is ex­pected to rise, it said, be­cause some 50 of those wounded in the strike are in crit­i­cal con­di­tion.

Ama­teur videos posted on­line Sun­day showed res­i­dents and armed rebels rush­ing to the scene. More than a dozen dead or se­ri­ously wounded peo­ple lay in the street near a con­crete build­ing, and ear its front wall, bod­ies lay tan­gled amid a pile of dirt and rub­ble on a side­walk.

Rebels screamed in dis­tress while try­ing to ex­tract the bod­ies.

It was un­clear from the videos if the build­ing was in­deed a bak­ery. Nearly all the dead and wounded ap­peared to be men, some wore cam­ou­flage, rais­ing the pos­si­bil­ity that the jet had tar­geted a rebel gath­er­ing.

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