'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
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Arts and Entertainment
Eye of the beholder? 'Concrete lasagne' Preston bus station
architectureWhich monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?
Lizards, such as Iguanas (pictured), have a unique pattern of tissue growth
Anna Nicole Smith died of an accidental overdose in 2007
Life and Style
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
'The Great British Bake Off' showcases food at its most sumptuous
tvReview: Bread-making skills of the Bake Off hopefuls put to the test
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
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

Digital Project Manager/BA

£300 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: An experienced Digital/Ecommerc...

Creative Content Executive (writer, social media, website)

£30000 - £35000 Per Annum + 25 days holiday and bonus: Clearwater People Solut...

SEN Teacher

£100 - £120 per day: Randstad Education Bristol: Supply special educational ne...

Regional ESF Contract Manager

£32500 - £35000 per annum: Randstad Education Birmingham: European Social Fund...

Day In a Page

Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape
eBay's enduring appeal: Online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce retailer

eBay's enduring appeal

The online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce site
Culture Minister Ed Vaizey: ‘lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird’

'Lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird'

Culture Minister Ed Vaizey calls for immediate action to address the problem
Artist Olafur Eliasson's latest large-scale works are inspired by the paintings of JMW Turner

Magic circles: Artist Olafur Eliasson

Eliasson's works will go alongside a new exhibition of JMW Turner at Tate Britain. He tells Jay Merrick why the paintings of his hero are ripe for reinvention
Josephine Dickinson: 'A cochlear implant helped me to discover a new world of sound'

Josephine Dickinson: 'How I discovered a new world of sound'

After going deaf as a child, musician and poet Josephine Dickinson made do with a hearing aid for five decades. Then she had a cochlear implant - and everything changed
Greggs Google fail: Was the bakery's response to its logo mishap a stroke of marketing genius?

Greggs gives lesson in crisis management

After a mishap with their logo, high street staple Greggs went viral this week. But, as Simon Usborne discovers, their social media response was anything but half baked
Matthew McConaughey has been singing the praises of bumbags (shame he doesn't know how to wear one)

Matthew McConaughey sings the praises of bumbags

Shame he doesn't know how to wear one. Harriet Walker explains the dos and don'ts of fanny packs
7 best quadcopters and drones

Flying fun: 7 best quadcopters and drones

From state of the art devices with stabilised cameras to mini gadgets that can soar around the home, we take some flying objects for a spin
Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

The midfielder returned to the Premier League after two years last weekend. The controversial character had much to discuss after his first game back
Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

British No 1 knows his consistency as well as his fitness needs working on as he prepares for the US Open after a ‘very, very up and down’ year
Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

A descent into madness in America's heartlands

David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan
BBC’s filming of raid at Sir Cliff’s home ‘may be result of corruption’

BBC faces corruption allegation over its Sir Cliff police raid coverage

Reporter’s relationship with police under scrutiny as DG is summoned by MPs to explain extensive live broadcast of swoop on singer’s home