Syrian Aircraft Kill 50 in Northern Rebel Town

A student looks at a window cracked after a mortar shell hit the French school in the Syrian capital Damascus on December 1, 2013, without causing any injuries to children (AFP, Louai Beshara)

(SOURCE)   Syrian government helicopters dropped barrels full of explosives on a rebel-held town near the northern city of Aleppo, killing at least 50 people in two separate attacks over the weekend, activists said Sunday.

The shelling Sunday hit near a bakery in the town of al-Bab, located east of Aleppo, killing at least 24 people, said Rami Abdurrahman of the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and Akram al-Halabi, a rebel spokesman based in nearby in Aleppo.

The Observatory obtains its information from a network of activists on the ground. Syrian state media said government forces killed “terrorists,” which is how they describe armed rebels fighting against President Bashar Assad’s rule.

The attack followed a similar bombing on Saturday, when army helicopters targeted a rebel compound in al-Bab, but missed their target and hit a market, killing 26 people, Abdurrahman said.

The army used barrel bombs in both attacks, which contain hundreds of pounds (kilograms) of explosives.

Assad’s forces have relied heavily on air power in the last year to regain control of opposition-held territory, particularly in the north and along the border with Turkey. Rebels also control parts of Aleppo, Syria’s largest city and its commercial center.

Activists say barrel-bomb airstrikes often precede government ground offensives. Assad’s troops may be mounting a major operation to recapture territory and bolster its position ahead of peace talks planned for January in Geneva.

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