Residents walk near a bakery damaged by what activists said
were missiles fired by a Syrian Air Force fighter jet from
forces loyal to Syria's President Bashar al-Assad at
Halfaya, near Hama. REUTERS/Samer Al-Hamwi/Shaam News
Dozens of people were killed and many more wounded in a
Syrian government air strike that hit a bakery where a crowd
was queuing for bread, activists say.
If confirmed, the attack on Halfaya in central Syria, which
was seized by rebels last week, would be one of the deadliest
air strikes of Syria's civil war.
Videos uploaded by activists showed dozens of bloodstained
corpses lying amid rubble and shrapnel. An adolescent boy
with both his feet blown off lay flailing in the middle of a
"When I got there, I could see piles of bodies all over the
ground. There were women and children," said Samer al-Hamawi,
an activist in the town. "There are also dozens of wounded
Rami Abdelrahman, of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights,
said: "From looking at the videos, I expect the death toll to
be around or above 50, and not higher than 100. But for now I
am keeping my estimate at dozens killed."
Activists say more than 44,000 people have been killed in the
21 months since protests erupted against President Bashar
al-Assad, inspired by the Arab Spring revolutions in Tunisia,
Egypt and elsewhere.
Amid the latest carnage, United Nations-backed crisis
mediator Lakhdar Brahimi arrived for more talks in Syria. He
had to drive from neighbouring Lebanon because fighting
around Damascus International Airport has effectively shut it
"TIME IS GETTING SHORT"
The uprising has grown into civil war, with death tolls
regularly topping 100 people a day as the army hits back at
rebels who have made a string of advances across the country,
including around the capital.
In defiant remarks, Syrian Information Minister Umran Ahid
al-Za'bi said rebels and their foreign allies should "forget"
trying to topple Assad.
He appeared to move away from the conciliatory tone of the
Syrian vice president, who said neither side could win the
war and called for a national unity government.
"These military efforts to try to topple the government, of
getting rid of the president, of occupying the capital ...
Forget about this," al-Za'bi told a news conference in
"I have general advice to those political powers that reject
dialogue: time is getting short. Hurry and move on to working
on a political solution."
Brahimi, who replaced Kofi Annan after the former U.N. chief
failed to get Assad and world powers to agree on a way to end
the conflict, was expected to meet the president on Monday.
Western powers and some Arab countries have repeatedly
demanded that Assad step down.
Witness Hamawi said more than 1,000 people had been queuing
at the bakery. Shortages of fuel and flour have made bread
production erratic across the country, and people often wait
hours to buy loaves.
"We hadn't received flour in around three days so everyone
was going to the bakery today, and lots of them were women
and children," Hamawi said. "I still don't know yet if my
relatives are among the dead."
New York-based Human Rights Watch condemned army air strikes
on bakeries earlier this year, arguing that in some incidents
the Syrian military was not using enough precision to target
rebel sites, and in other instances it may have intentionally
In video from the attack site, women and children cried and
screamed as men rushed with motorbikes and vans to carry away
There was no independent media access to the scene, as the
government restricts press access in Syria.
In one video, the cameraman could be heard sobbing as he
filmed. "God is great, God is great. It was a war plane, a
war plane," he cried.
One man was seen stopping to pick up half a corpse lying in
the street, wrapping it up in his own jacket and carrying it
away. Residents were using their bare hands to dig for bodies
underneath blocks of concrete.
"Where are the Arabs, where is the world?" shouted one man.
"Look at all of these bodies!"