'20 killed' as Syrian warplanes attack olive press factory

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The Independent Online

Syrian warplanes bombed an olive press factory in the country's north yesterday, killing and wounding dozens of people, including farmers who were waiting to convert their olives to oil, activists said.

At least 20 people were reportedly killed and many others wounded in the raid west of the city of Idlib.

President Bashar Assad's regime has been launching intense air raids on rebels in recent months, mostly in Idlib, the nearby province of Aleppo, Deir el-Zour to the east and suburbs of the capital Damascus.

The most recent air raids have killed hundreds of people, including eight children on Sunday in the village of Deir al-Asafir near Damascus.

Hilal Khashan, a political science professor at the American University of Beirut, said the air force was being used in areas the army could not easily reach.

"This is mass punishment. The regime is striking at civilian areas to make the people pay a price for not standing against advancing opposition forces," Khashan said. "The regime wants to make the price of its opponents' victory costly."

Olive oil is a main staple in Syria, and tens of thousands of tons are produced annually.