BEIRUT: The Syrian government extended its intense aerial campaign against rebel-held areas of the northern city of Aleppo Monday, conducting a series of airstrikes that killed at least 26 people, including 11 children, activists said.
The grim news came as the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based monitoring group, said that January – in which the Geneva II peace conference convened – was the bloodiest month of Syria’s three-year uprising.
President Bashar Assad’s air force has pounded opposition areas of Aleppo since mid-December, reducing apartment blocks to rubble and overwhelming already strapped hospitals and medical clinics with the wounded. On Sunday, government aircraft also targeted areas of east Aleppo under rebel control, killing nearly 40 people.
Monday’s air raids hit the districts of Hanano, Qadi Askar and Muwasalat, the Observatory said. The group, which monitors the conflict through a network of activists on the ground, said helicopters dropped crude bombs – barrels packed with explosives, fuel and scraps of metal – on the neighborhoods, causing immense damage.
Amateur videos posted online provided a window on the carnage.
In one clip from Hanano, residents frantically dig through the shattered blocks of concrete and twisted metal strewn across the street in search of survivors. A man stumbles over the rubble as he carries a wounded boy wrapped in a blanket, his arm and face covered in blood. Further down the street, the facades of buildings have been torn off by the bomb.
In a second video, two men place the shredded remains of a body onto a carpet. Another body covered in a blanket lies in a pool of blood on dusty pavement. Nearby, two women rock back and forth as they wail over a third body.
The videos appeared genuine and corresponded to other Associated Press reporting of the events depicted.
Separately, regime forces advanced southeast of Aleppo and seized the village of Ashrafieh near the town of Safira, the Observatory said, after Islamist rebels retreated from the area.
The Observatory said that helicopters dropped barrel bombs on Latmin, in Hama province, killing a boy, while also in Hama province, Islamist rebels fired a Grad rocket that killed five civilians in the Alawite village of Rabia. It also reported a rare mortar bomb falling on the Christian village of Marmarita in Homs province, causing material damage.
In the southern province of Deraa, rebels claimed they had seized the village of Ataman, which could help them block the international highway to Damascus. Activists posted several videos of rebel fighters conducting mopping-up operations at regime checkpoints in the village.
January, according to the Observatory, saw 5,794 casualties. It said a total of 3,013 non-jihadist rebels and civilians perished, a figure that included 358 children and 225 women. The month also saw a bloody campaign, which began on Jan. 3, by an array of rebel groups against ultraconservative jihadists from the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS).
The Observatory said that 923 regime troops and 502 Syrian paramilitaries lost their lives, in addition to 52 non-Syrian Shiite paramilitaries, and nine fighters from Lebanon’s Hezbollah.
The Observatory said a total of 1,251 jihadist fighters were killed, from two groups: the Nusra Front and ISIS.
The identity of a number of casualties remains unknown, it added.
The Observatory said its figures did not include those kidnapped and presumed dead during January’s clashes between ISIS and various rebel groups, and cautioned that the month’s actual death toll could be higher by 1,000 people.