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Families killed in Syria airstrike

14 January 2013, 14:46

Beirut - An air strike on a rebel-held town southwest of the Syrian capital Damascus killed 20 people on Monday, resident opposition activists said.

An activist living in Moadamiyeh, who asked not to be named, said the dead were members of two families and included women and children. Activist video footage showed images of the limp body of a boy being pulled out from broken concrete, his back covered in dust and his front in blood.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a monitoring group based in Britain, said it had the names of six children killed when a building hit by the strike collapsed.

The opposition-linked body said at least 10 people had been killed, but that the toll was likely to rise as many of the wounded were in critical condition and some civilians were still under the rubble.

Reuters could not verify the reports due to government curbs on independent media. State media did not mention the incident.

On Sunday, forces loyal to President Bashar Assad killed at least 36 people, 14 of them children, in bombardments of rebel-held eastern areas near the capital, activists said.

60 000 killed

The air, rocket and artillery campaign is the heaviest since rebels overran a helicopter base and missile base near Damascus two months ago and encroached on the main international airport, inching steadily closer to the capital, the sources said.

The military uses air strikes and artillery to hit rebels holding a line of eastern and southern areas around the capital.

More than 60 000 people have been killed during the 21-month-old revolt, which began with peaceful protests but turned violent after Assad's forces shot at demonstrators.

Meanwhile, The US-based International Rescue Committee (IRC) urged the world on Sunday to scale up planning and funding to help end the "staggering" humanitarian crisis in Syria.

"The Middle East is once again facing a human displacement tragedy," the refugee assistance organisation said in a new report.

"Current assistance levels are drastically insufficient to address existing needs, let alone the barest requirements to respond to a lengthy humanitarian emergency and post-conflict recovery," it added.

2 million displaced

More than 600 000 Syrians have fled the Syrian conflict to neighbouring countries like Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan and Iraq. The UN had anticipated that number could soon exceed one million if the exodus continues at its current pace of 3 000 refugees a day.

There are around 2 million civilians displaced in Syria and the UN has estimated that 4 million are in dire need of assistance.

The IRC report said that many refugees have cited rape as the main reason for leaving their villages in Syria.

On the ground, government forces claimed they have taken over much of the strategic rebel-held Daraya area on the outskirts of Damascus, inflicting heavy losses on rebel fighters.

"Government forces managed to kill and wound many foreign militants in Daraya in a major military offensive," state-run television reported.

Daraya is located near the district of Mezzeh, which is home a large military base, and is close to Kfar Soussa where most government headquarters are located. It is today home to around 3 000-5 000 rebel fighters, mainly Muslim extremists from al-Nusra Front, who are fighting alongside the Free Syrian Army across Syria.

- Reuters


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