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Syrian warplanes bomb rebel-held town in deadly attack
‘Brutal’ direction » U.N. released a report accusing Assad’s forces of war crimes.


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Hundreds of residents flocked to the bombing sites to inspect the damage and look for dead and wounded in the rubble.

The first blast damaged houses and shattered shop windows along nearby streets. It sheared off the front wall of one home, exposing a man and his wife inside their kitchen, where jars of olives and pickles still sat in the cupboards.

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"I saw the plane come down and some missiles fall and then there was smoke all over," said Mohammed Fuad, 18. "When it cleared, we heard screaming and saw rubble all over the streets."

More than a dozen homes were reduced to a huge expanse of broken concrete. Men wandered the area, lifting up bricks and peering through holes in collapsed roofs to see if anyone was stuck underneath.

One group brought a generator and an electric saw to cut through rebar, while others cleared rubble from the road so pickup trucks ferrying the dead and injured could pass.

Many of those gathered screamed at foreign journalists, decrying the international community for not intervening militarily in Syria’s civil war. The revolt that started in March 2011 with protests calling for political change has killed more than 20,000 people, activists say.

Many of the wounded were driven directly to the Turkish border, four miles (six kilometers) to the north.

Nour, the local activist, said there were 15 dead in a hospital in Turkey and 10 who had been buried in the town. He said many more had yet to be counted.

The area appeared to be no more than a poor, residential neighborhood with a few metal workshops, and residents said there were no rebel bases there, though they often do not speak openly about where rebels operate.

Azaz has considered itself "liberated" since rebel forces pushed out the army last month. Its largest rebel group, the Northern Storm Brigade, runs a prison and the nearby border crossing with Turkey. It’s political and media offices are less than a mile (kilometer) away from the bombing site, in the former local headquarters of Assad’s Baath party.


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Along with about 15 Syrian prisoners, the rebels are currently holding 11 Lebanese Shiites they detained a month ago. Nour, the activist, said four of them were missing after the bombing, though he was not sure if they had been killed. He said the building they were being held in was hit.

About a dozen rebel fighters in camouflage vests flocked to the scene after the bombings, scanning the skies for more jets. None of them carried more than a Kalashnikov rifle.

In nearby Aleppo, activists reported shelling and clashes in the city, where rebels have taken control of several neighborhoods over the past weeks. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the rebels were trying to take over a key dam in the northern town of Manbij, east of Aleppo. It said the army was using helicopter gunships in the battles along the Euphrates River.

U.S.-based Human Rights Watch said Syrian government fighter planes fired rockets that struck the main hospital in an opposition-controlled area of Aleppo a day earlier, wounding two civilians and causing significant damage. The group said its members visited the damaged hospital.

There were fresh signs Wednesday that the civil war was spilling across the border into Lebanon, a country ravaged by its own 15-year civil war that Syria was deeply involved in, and which is sharply divided between supporters and opponents of Assad’s regime.

Syrian rebels have adopted a new tactic of seizing prisoners from countries or foreign groups allied with the regime to rattle Assad and his allies outside the country, such as the 11 Lebanese Shiites captured in May shortly after they crossed from Turkey on their way to Lebanon. Earlier this month, rebels abducted 48 Iranians near the capital, Damascus.

On Wednesday, Sunni power Saudi Arabia ordered its citizens to leave Lebanon, citing fear of kidnappings by Shiites angry over the rebels taking prisoners from Lebanon and Iran.

In Damascus, a bomb attached to a fuel truck exploded Wednesday outside a hotel where U.N. observers are staying, wounding at least three people, Syrian state TV reported. Activists also reported clashes near the government headquarters and the Iranian Embassy in Damascus.



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