Assad launches new wave of air raids, pounding key Syrian town

Friday, October 19, 2012
By Paul Martin
October 19, 2012

SYRIA – Syrian regime warplanes launched a new wave of strikes Thursday on the northwestern town of Maaret al-Numan, seized by rebels last week, an AFP correspondent reported. Fighter jets began overflying and bombarding Maaret al-Numan, located on the main Damascus-Aleppo highway, in the early hours of the morning, targeting the strategic town and its periphery. The AFP correspondent was unable to immediately confirm any casualties or damage from the air raids. Anti-regime forces, who overran Maaret al-Numan on October 9 as they pushed to create a buffer zone along the border with Turkey, attempted to shoot down the aircraft with heavy machinegun fire, but without any success. The bombing raids were punctuated by artillery and occasional rocket fire across the town, although these were less intense than witnessed over the past week. Overnight, sporadic gunfire was also heard, including around a major military base at Wadi Deif, where the insurgents kept up a siege of about 250 troops holed up inside. On Wednesday, rebels downed a helicopter gunship in Maarhtat, on the outskirts of Maaret al-Numan, according to both the insurgents and the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. And the Observatory said that on Thursday fighter jets bombed Maarhtat and Bsida, where the helicopter crashed the day before. Nearby, the fighters of the rebel Free Syrian Army and jihadist militants of Al-Nusra Front targeted the Wadi Daif base, said the Britain-based monitoring group. In Aleppo, Syria’s most populous city in the country’s north, the military pounded rebel-held neighbourhoods of Shaar and Sukkari, as well as two nearby villages. In the central province of Homs, the military bombed the town of Qusayr, another opposition stronghold which government troops have besieged for several days, said the Observatory. Bombing killed three children, including one whose head was blown off, in the central town of Houla, near to a village where at least 108 people died a massacre in May, most of them women and children. Nine bodies were found in the Yarmuk neighborhood of the capital Damascus, the Observatory added, without identifying them. –France 24

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