A Syrian government airstrike on a heavily contested neighborhood in the northern city of Aleppo on Saturday killed at least 15 people, including nine children, activists said.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the air raid hit Aleppo’s Sheikh Maqsoud neighborhood, which rebels seized parts of last weekend after days of heavy fighting with regime troops. That gain had been the latest opposition advance in an urban warzone that expanded last summer, when rebel fighters took control of several neighborhoods.
Aleppo is Syria’s largest city and a key front in the civil war raging between Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and those trying to overthrow his regime.
The observatory said the death toll from Saturday’s air raid, near a checkpoint of anti-government Kurdish militiamen known as the Popular Committees, is expected to rise as many others were seriously wounded.
An amateur video of the raid showed people loading the bodies of three bloodied children and two men in the back of a pickup truck as women screamed and explosions went off in the distance. Another boy was seeing lying dead in the street near a burning truck.
The video appeared genuine and corresponded to other reporting on the events depicted.
“I saw dead people and cattle in the area,” said Aleppo-based activist Mohammed Saeed, who added that he counted 11 bodies.
Both sides are eager to control the strategic district, which is predominantly inhabited by minority Kurds.
The neighborhood is located on a hill on the northern edge of Aleppo and overlooks much of the city, giving those who control it the ability to pound districts held by the opposing side with mortars and artillery.
The rebels control large swaths of northern Syria, and captured their first provincial capital — the city of Raqqa — last month. They have also been making gains in recent weeks in the south, seizing military bases and towns in the strategically important region between Damascus and the border with Jordan, about 160km from the capital.
Meanwhile in Damascus, mortar rounds hit the residential district of Kafar Souseh on the city’s western outskirts, killing one person and wounding at least 13, the state-run SANA news agency said.
The attacks also caused material damage to stores in the district and set several parked vehicles on fire, SANA said.
The observatory said mortar rounds also struck the Damascus suburb of Jaramana. There were no immediate reports of casualties.
It was not immediately clear who fired the shells, but mortar rounds have fallen with increasingly regularity in the center of the capital, puncturing the aura of normalcy that the regime has tried to cultivate in the city.
The regime has largely kept the rebels at bay so far in Damascus, although opposition fighters control several suburbs of the capital and look increasingly capable of threatening the heart of the city — and al-Assad’s power.