Confusion lingers on bakery attack

Confusion lingers on bakery attack

Confusion lingers on bakery attack

Residents walk near buildings, damaged by missiles at Douma. REUTERS photo

Dozens of people were killed and many more wounded in an air strike that allegedly hit a bakery in the rebel-held town of Halfaya, Hama on Dec. 23, as both the Syrian government and opposition forces blame each other for the attack.

Activists have said more than 60 people were killed and at least 50 wounded, accusing Syrian air forces of bombing a local bakery. Halfaya was the first of the area’s towns to be “liberated” by rebels, and activists saw the attack as payback.

The official news agency SANA, however, gave a remarkably different account, claiming a “terrorist” group attacked the town, citing local residents as proof. “An armed terrorist group attacked the town of Halfaya, committing crimes against the population and killing many women and children,” it said. The report added that the Syrian army intervened during the assault and “killed and wounded many terrorists,” a term Syrian officials and state media use to refer to rebels.

“Terrorists then shot video images to [use to] accuse the Syrian army when international envoy Lakhdar Brahimi arrived in Syria,” the agency said. If confirmed, the attack would be one of the deadliest air strikes of Syria’s civil war. The strike on Halfaya left scattered bodies and debris up and down a street and more than a dozen dead, with many more wounded trapped in tangled heaps of dirt and rubble.

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

For the past week, rebels have been launching attacks in the area, most notably in the nearby village of Morek, where they hope to seize control of the country’s main north-south highway to prevent the regime from supplying its forces further north in the provinces of Idlib and Aleppo.