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

 

Beirut

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
News
Ben Little, right, is a Labour supporter while Jonathan Rogers supports the Green Party
general election 2015
News
The 91st Hakone Ekiden Qualifier at Showa Kinen Park, Tokyo, 2014
news
Life and Style
Former helicopter pilot Major Tim Peake will become the first UK astronaut in space for over 20 years
food + drinkNothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
News
Kim Wilde began gardening in the 1990s when she moved to the countryside
peopleThe singer is leading an appeal for the charity Thrive, which uses the therapy of horticulture
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
Sport
Alexis Sanchez celebrates scoring a second for Arsenal against Reading
football
Life and Style
health
Voices
An easy-peel potato; Dave Hax has come up with an ingenious method in food preparation
voicesDave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
News
i100
News
Japan's population is projected to fall dramatically in the next 50 years (Wikimedia)
news
Life and Style
Buyers of secondhand cars are searching out shades last seen in cop show ‘The Sweeney’
motoringFlares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
  • Get to the point
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: Project Implementation Executive

£18000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Chiropractic Assistant

£16500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Chiropractic Assistant is needed in a ...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Account Executive - Midlands

£18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides coaching ...

Day In a Page

NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

Let the propaganda wars begin - again

'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

Japan's incredible long-distance runners

Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

Tom Drury: The quiet American

His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
Beige is back: The drab car colours of the 1970s are proving popular again

Beige to the future

Flares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own