Syria warplanes bomb northern rebel belts: watchdog
BEIRUT - Agence France-Presse
In this image taken from video obtained Friday, Sept. 21, 2012 from the Ugarit News, which has been authenticated based on its contents and other AP reporting, shows a government warplane dropping a bomb on Aleppo, Syria, Wednesday, Sept 19, 2012. AP photoSyrian regime warplanes unleashed relentless pre-dawn air raids Tuesday on rebel positions around Maaret al-Numan, a strategic northern town insurgents captured last week, a watchdog said.
The raids were the "most violent" since the rebels took full control of the town in Idlib province on Wednesday, Rami Abdel Rahman of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights told AFP.
Large swathes of Idlib and Aleppo as well as the countryside abutting the Turkish border have fallen into rebel hands in recent months.
Maaret al-Numan is strategically located in the northwest on the highway linking Damascus to the embattled city of Aleppo.
The warplanes dropped bombs in a bid to break a rebel blockade of the highway, which is preventing army reinforcements from reaching Aleppo, theatre of intense fighting for three months.
Rebels responded with anti-aircraft guns.
Nearby, in Kafr Nabal, army shelling killed two children aged six and 10, said the Observatory.
A citizen journalist in the town said the children were killed by an air strike on their home.
"Usually, warplanes overfly Kafr Nabal for a while before the air strikes begin," but "this time, the fighter jet bombarded the town without warning," said the journalist who identified himself as Raed Fares.
Forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad are also attempting to put down rebels at Eastern Ghuta, in the countryside outside Damascus.
On Tuesday, the army pounded the eastern Damascus district of Jobar, home to strong anti-regime sentiment, the Observatory said.
It also shelled the towns of Harasta and Hammuriyeh east of the capital, the watchdog added.
Seven rebels were killed in Damascus province, three in fighting in Eastern Ghuta, home to some of the fiercest and best organised rebel groups.
Violence on Tuesday killed at least 26 people, according to a preliminary toll, among them 12 civilians, four soldiers and 10 rebel fighters, the Observatory said.
The Syrian conflict, which entered its 20th month on Monday, started as peaceful pro-reform protests in the wake of the Arab Spring, but transformed into an armed insurgency when demonstrations were brutally crushed.
The conflict has so far killed more than 33,000 people, among them at least 2,300 children, says the Observatory.