The death of 10 children in an apparent cluster bomb attack near Damascus has been widely condemned by human rights groups, which claim that the outlawed weapons have been increasingly used by the Syrian regime against civilians over the past two months.
Images of the dead and wounded children were uploaded to the Internet by residents of Deir al-Asafir, hours after a vacant block where children had gathered was hit.
The videos showed scores of spent cluster bomb pellets and the shells they were discharged from.
“May God punish you, Bashar,” one of the residents is heard saying, referring to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, as a video pans across a room of dead children, many wrapped in white shrouds.
Residents in the town said that up to 40 had been wounded.
Opposition groups have insisted since late summer that the Syrian regime has been using the banned weapon — a claim that has been denied by officials in Damascus.
There was no independent confirmation of the attack. However, numerous images of spent shell casings have now been published from opposition-held parts of the country. None had so far had the visceral effect of the footage from Deir al-Asafir, which is believed to mark the first time in the Syrian conflict that cluster bombs have killed a large number of victims.
Meanwhile, the opposition on Monday virtually cut off roads from Raqa Province to Aleppo Province, severing Syrian regime supply lines, as France announced it had earmarked 1.2 million euros (US$1.5 million) in emergency aid for the Syrian National Coalition.
On the ground, the insurgents took control of Tishrin Dam on the Euphrates River after days of fighting, an area that connects Aleppo and Raqa, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
A resident of nearby Manbij confirmed the report, adding that employees of the hydropower dam were continuing operations.
The rebels now hold sway over a wide expanse of territory between the two provinces bordering Turkey, which backs the uprising.
The Syrian army must now rely on the Damascus-Aleppo highway to bring reinforcements to embattled Aleppo, where fighting is deadlocked.
In a sign of growing confidence, rebel officers have formed a commission to lay the groundwork for a future army and liaise with the political opposition.
Reflecting its growing recognition since being formed earlier this month, the coalition said it had named human rights activist and former teacher Walid Safur as its “ambassador” to London.
Safur set up the Syrian Commission for Human Rights in 1986 and was imprisoned several times before moving to London, where he represented the Muslim Brotherhood.