DAMASCUS: Syria’s air force killed 27 civilians yesterday in a raid on a market in an Aleppo provincial village, as a businessman became the second hopeful to register for the country’s controversial presidential election.
The air raid in Atareb, where the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said three children were among the dead, comes amid a massive aerial offensive on rebel areas across Aleppo province that began in mid-December.
The campaign has killed hundreds, mostly civilians, and forced thousands of families to flee their homes.
“The area that was struck today is a market area; that’s why there were so many civilians killed,” said Aleppo-based activist Abu Omar.
“The regime is hitting back against the civilians who support the revolt” against President Bashar Al Assad, he added.
Activists distributed video footage showing scenes of chaos, with bodies lying among mounds of grey rubble in what was clearly a market.
The amateur video shows a woman in a white headscarf screaming as she leaned over the body of a loved one.
Another image shows a man attending to a boy whose leg had been ripped off. It was unclear whether the child was alive or dead.
Human Rights Watch has accused Syria’s regime of “wreaking disaster” with its air strikes on the area.
Despite the violence, the regime plans to hold presidential election on June 3 that is expected to return Assad to office.
yesterday, regime-tolerated opponent Hassan Abdullah Al Nuri became the second candidate to register, a day after independent MP Maher Al Hajjar did so.
The exiled Syrian opposition has criticised as a farce the planned vote, which will be held only in government-controlled areas.
And the United Nations and Arab League have warned that the polls will deal a heavy blow to efforts for a negotiated peace.
Meanwhile, Damascus lost all electrical power after rebels sabotaged the gas pipeline at Jayrud that feeds the power station supplying the capital, state television and activists said.
The city has been blacked out several times in recent months for similar reasons.
In southern Damascus, the UN was allowed to distribute 300 parcels of food aid in besieged Yarmuk, after a 15-day lull, said UN Relief and Works Agency spokesman Chris Gunness.
But overall, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said access for foreign aid for millions of Syrians desperately in need has not improved, violating a Security Council resolution passed two months ago.
Almost 3.5 million people remain without access to essential goods and services, including life-saving medicines, in a “clear violation” of international law, said Ban.