'Dozens dead' as war planes bomb Syria's biggest city



Regime fighter jets bombed the country's most populous city yesterday, according to reports from the ground, in a dramatic escalation of the conflict which drew widespread condemnation.

The aerial bombardment of eastern areas of Syria's commercial capital Aleppo, reported by a BBC correspondent in the area and activists, were the first solid claims of war planes being employed by President Bashar al-Assad to crush the 16-month uprising. It comes amid a bloody battle for the city, once a bastion of support for the regime.

"The use of fighter jets in populated areas is of great concern as it is extremely difficulty to avoid civilian casualties," said Sarah Leah Whitson, director of the Middle East division at Human Rights Watch. "The conduct of the Syrian government was already of great concern to the world, and if these reports are true it would seem things have taken an even bloodier turn."

The army appeared to be using all its firepower to wrest back control of rebel held areas in Aleppo, and its coordinated attack began with an artillery barrage on the district of Tariq al-Bab at around 4.30pm with around 30 shells falling in 10 minutes, according to the BBC. Fighter jets then swept in and hit rebel held areas, it said, adding that "dozens" had been killed. Activists said that Russian-made MiG-21 fighter jets had been used in the raid.

The assault came as the Free Syrian Army (FSA) attempted to extend its control of the city, pushing towards the centre, after taking the district of Salaheddine last week. Footage filmed by activists also showed helicopter gunships swooping over the city.

Russia yesterday joined Western nations in urging Assad not to use chemical weapons, reminding Syria that it ratified a protocol that bars the use of poisonous gases in war in 1968. It came a day after the regime admitted for the first time it had stockpiles and said it would deploy them in an external attack,

Aleppo, near the Turkish border, would be a key strategic win for the opposition, which controls parts of the surrounding countryside. Speaking to The Independent yesterday, Colonel Abdul Jabbar al-Aqidi, an FSA commander in Aleppo, said he planned to make the city "our Benghazi" – the city in Libya from which rebel forces launched its successful assault to bring down Colonel Muammar Gaddafi – vowing to drive out "Assad gangs".

Videos posted on line showed the heavy price the city had paid yesterday, with heavily blood-stained street, buildings partially reduced to rubble and shoes abandoned in the road.

The security forces put down a rebellion in the city's prison overnight, according to activists, with the Local Coordination Committees saying at least 15 people had been killed.

Regime forces also fired tear gas and live rounds into Homs Central Prison in the early hours of yesterday morning after inmates took control of the jail, according to activists and FSA sources.

Prisoners, who had barricaded themselves in, fled to the rooftop, but remained in control of the building yesterday. Activist network Avaaz said three people had been confirmed dead.

Syria's prisons are bursting at the seams with political prisoners who have been rounded up since the beginning of the uprising against Assad's rule. Around 6,000 inmates in Homs jail began protesting on Saturday, according to Fahad al-Masri, a spokesman for the FSA.

"At the same moment there were defections of guards in the prison who killed the prison manager," he said, adding that FSA forces had been fighting the army in the area for several days to prevent them entering, fearing they may stage a massacre in retribution.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooksNow available in paperback
The 67P/CG comet as seen from the Philae lander
scienceThe most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Arts and Entertainment
Ian McKellen as Gandalf in The Hobbit: The Battle Of The Five Armies
Arts and Entertainment
Sarah Koenig, creator of popular podcast Serial, which is to be broadcast by the BBC
tvReview: The secret to the programme's success is that it allows its audience to play detective
Ruby Wax has previously written about her mental health problems in her book Sane New World
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executives - OTE £60,000

£25000 - £60000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you passionate about Custom...

Recruitment Genius: Care Workers Required - The London Borough of Bromley

£15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This homecare agency is based in Beckenh...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executives - OTE £50,000

£25000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you passionate about Custom...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executives - OTE £50,000

£25000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you passionate about Custom...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas
La Famille Bélier is being touted as this year's Amelie - so why are many in the deaf community outraged by it?

Deaf community outraged by La Famille Bélier

The new film tells the story of a deaf-mute farming family and is being touted as this year's Amelie
10 best high-end laptops

10 best high-end laptops

From lightweight and zippy devices to gaming beasts, we test the latest in top-spec portable computers
Michael Carberry: ‘After such a tough time, I’m not sure I will stay in the game’

Michael Carberry: ‘After such a tough time, I’m not sure I will stay in the game’

The batsman has grown disillusioned after England’s Ashes debacle and allegations linking him to the Pietersen affair