BEIRUT: The death toll from Syrian air raids on rebel-held areas in the city of Aleppo has topped 40 over a 24-hour period, an anti-regime activist group said Wednesday.
Barrel bombs killed 22 people Tuesday in the eastern districts of Hay Qataneh, Tariq al-Bab, Bustan al-Qasr, Bani Zeid, Mghayer and Lairamoun, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
Another 21 people died Wednesday in another wave of barrel bomb strikes on Mghayer, said the Britain-based group, which compiles its information from a network of medics and opposition activists on the ground.
Nine children figured among the dead, the group added, warning that the toll could rise as “many people are in serious condition and there must be bodies under the rubble.”
The anti-regime Halab News Network said 16 barrel bombs and five rocket strikes targeted Aleppo and several rural locations in the province Wednesday.
In next-door Idlib province, a car bomb ripped through a diesel fuel market in the rebel-held town of Maaret al-Naasan, killing at least 16 people, the Observatory said.
The principal sides in the war have each claimed significant gains of late, as regime forces and their paramilitary allies last week broke a rebel siege of the Central Prison in Aleppo, while rebels in Idlib seized the town of Khan Sheikhoun over the weekend.
Pro-opposition media outlets circulated photos of a veteran Iranian Revolutionary Guard officer Abdullah Iskandari, after Iranian outlets announced his “martyrdom.”
There was little available information about where Iskandari was killed. The Iranian websites identified him as a “defender of the holy shrine,” a likely reference to the Shiite pilgrimage site of Sayyida Zeinab outside Damascus.
Iskandari served in the Revolutionary Guard’s land forces during the Iran-Iraq war, the websites said.
Separately, U.S. government agencies were examining social media postings purporting to show how an American who was fighting with the Nusra Front, Al-Qaeda’s affiliate in Syria, blew himself up during the rebel offensive in Idlib, U.S. officials said.
The officials, who declined to be identified, said U.S. agencies assessed that the postings were likely authentic. One said some investigators believed they knew the “ U.S. person’s” true identity, but declined to give further details.
According to Internet postings, the suicide bomber, who called himself “Abu Hurayra al-Amriki” carried out one of four suicide bombings on May 25 on behalf of the Nusra Front.
If his identity is confirmed, he would be the first American known to have committed a suicide bombing in Syria on behalf of Al-Qaeda, said Laith Alkhouri, a senior analyst with Flashpoint Global Partners, which monitors militant websites for government and private clients.
Alkhouri said social media postings, including Twitter messages and a video posted on YouTube, showed Abu Hurayra posing in a still picture with three other suicide bombers, one of whom was Syrian. The other two were foreigners.
The video shows a truck-sized vehicle being loaded with explosives and then cuts to a long shot of a fortress-like structure on top of a hill being blown up.
In the capital, three people were killed and at least five wounded when mortar bombs struck the upscale neighborhoods of Malki and Abu Rummaneh, the Observatory said.
In the east, a car bombing Tuesday night targeted a hotel being used by the Al-Qaeda splinter group Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS) in its stronghold of the city of Raqqa on the Euphrates, the Observatory said.The attack wounded an unconfirmed number of civilians and prompted ISIS to impose a curfew beginning at 10:30 p.m. ISIS militants also arrested 10 fighters from other rebel groups, according to the Observatory, which described the hotel as housing ISIS “members and their families.”
ISIS claimed that the car bomb “wounded 45, most of them women and children and a third of them in critical condition,” while the Observatory reported “dozens injured, most of them civilians.” ISIS published photographs showing the destruction left by the car bombs and a child allegedly injured in the attack. ISIS accused the Nusra Front of being behind the bombing. No group has officially claimed responsibility for the attacks.
Also in the east, clashes between ISIS and the Kurdish YPG militia in rural Hassakeh province have killed at least eight Kurds and 11 fighters from ISIS, as both sides continue to shell each other’s positions near the town of Ras al-Ain on the Turkish border.