Assad's brutal retaliation kills 10 Syrian children in cluster bomb attack

Rebels claim strike on school playground is proof of regime's use of controversial munitions

A cluster bomb hit a school playground in a village just outside
the Syrian capital Damascus, killing as many as 10 children as they
played, opposition activists said.

The strike in the village of Deir al-Asafir came just hours after rebels seized a key military airbase in the area, leading to speculation that the government was taking retribution as it attempts to keep a grip on power in the face of mounting rebel gains. Reports also suggested that those opposed to Bashar al-Assad's government also took a hydroelectric dam yesterday in the east of the country.

A graphic video posted online appears to show the chaotic aftermath. A young girl in a purple jumper lies motionless on the floor, with another limp body of a girl dressed in red splayed out next to the school gates. The cameraman moves to a car where the corpses of two young boys have been piled in the back seat. He pans back to the girls where a woman in a headscarf kneels over the body of one of them, screaming.

The Syrian regime has denied using cluster munitions, saying it does not possess them, but their use has been documented by human rights groups and activists with increasingly frequency. Controversial because of their indiscriminate nature, the ordnances scatter mini "bomblets" over an area the size of a football pitch and those that do not explode can become effective land mines, maiming and killing for decades.

Another video from Deir al-Asafir showed bomblet casings gathered by the villages, with one man saying that 70 bomblets had been found. Activists denied reports that rebel fighters were hiding out in the village.

The London-based Observatory for Human Rights put the death toll at eight, while others said 10 children had died. "None of those killed was older than 15 years old," said Abu Kassem, an activist from the village.

The regime's fighter jets also struck targets near the Turkish border yesterday, sending refugees stuck in makeshift camps fleeing for their safety. The missiles fell near the Atmeh refugee camp, home to more than 10,000 Syrians who have fled from elsewhere in the country.

Turkey's state-run Anadolu Agency said airstrikes had killed and wounded several people in the border village, but no further details were given.

The attack appeared to have targeted a Free Syrian Army base nearby, but missed. "Two Syrian fighter jets came and fired five rockets. Three have hit farm areas and another two hit buildings near the base," said one local activist named Ahmed.

The strikes come a day before a joint Turkish-Nato team will begin scouting locations along the border to decide on the locations for the deployment of a surface-to-air Patriot missile system, which Turkey hopes will protect from attacks from within Syria's borders. "That it will be used to form a no-fly zone or for an offensive operation is out of the question," the Turkish military said in a statement. There were unconfirmed reports yesterday that Turkey had scrambled fighter jets to the border after the shelling just metres from its territory.

After days of fighting rebels also captured a key hydroelectric dam on the Euprates River in the north of the country yesterday. The dam supplies electricity to several areas of Syria and its loss was described by Observatory director Rami Abdul-Rahmanas as a "major blow" to the regime.

Amateur videos posted online showed gunmen inside the dam's operations room as an employee sat in front of five screens speaking by telephone about the level of water behind the dam. Another video showed a gunman in front of dozens of green wooden boxes apparently full of munitions. A gunman opened one of the boxes showing that it contained hand grenades.

"The Free Syrian Army has fully liberated the Tishrin Dam," one of the rebels could be heard saying.

The capture follows a series of significant rebel gains over the past few days, with the FSA claiming to have seized the airbase at Marj al-Sultan on Sunday. However, there were conflicting claims yesterday as to whether they still held the base.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Account Manager

£23000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company has over 40 years ...

Recruitment Genius: Weekend Factory Operatives

£9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This high quality thread manufacturer is curr...

Recruitment Genius: FP&A Analyst

£40000 - £55000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A market leading acquirer and m...

Recruitment Genius: Electricians

£35000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Fully qualified electricians re...

Day In a Page

Sepp Blatter resignation: The beginning of Fifa's long road to reform?

Does Blatter's departure mean Fifa will automatically clean up its act?

Don't bet on it, says Tom Peck
Charles Kennedy: The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

Charles Kennedy was consistently a man of the centre-left, dedicated to social justice, but was also a champion of liberty and an opponent of the nanny-state, says Baroness Williams
Syria civil war: The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of this endless conflict

The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of Syria's endless civil war

Sahar Qanbar lost her mother and brother as civilians and government soldiers fought side by side after being surrounded by brutal Islamist fighters. Robert Fisk visited her
The future of songwriting: How streaming is changing everything we know about making music

The future of songwriting

How streaming is changing everything we know about making music
William Shemin and Henry Johnson: Jewish and black soldiers receive World War I Medal of Honor amid claims of discrimination

Recognition at long last

Jewish and black soldiers who fought in WWI finally receive medals after claims of discrimination
Beating obesity: The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters

Beating obesity

The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters
9 best women's festival waterproofs

Ready for rain: 9 best women's festival waterproofs

These are the macs to keep your denim dry and your hair frizz-free(ish)
Cycling World Hour Record: Nervous Sir Bradley Wiggins ready for pain as he prepares to go distance

Wiggins worried

Nervous Sir Bradley ready for pain as he prepares to attempt cycling's World Hour Record
Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

On your feet!

Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

The big NHS question

Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

Thongs ain't what they used to be

Big knickers are back
Thurston Moore interview

Thurston Moore interview

On living in London, Sonic Youth and musical memoirs
In full bloom

In full bloom

Floral print womenswear
From leading man to Elephant Man, Bradley Cooper is terrific

From leading man to Elephant Man

Bradley Cooper is terrific