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Activists: Syrian Government Air Strike Kills 21 in Northern Town

  • VOA News

A suicide attacker detonates a car bomb at a Syrian security compound in a remote, predominantly Kurdish area, killing at least four people, Sept. 30, 2012.

A suicide attacker detonates a car bomb at a Syrian security compound in a remote, predominantly Kurdish area, killing at least four people, Sept. 30, 2012.

Syrian rights activists say government warplanes have bombed a northern town near the Turkish border, killing 21 people, as heavy fighting spread within the old city of Aleppo, Syria's commercial capital.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the death toll from Monday's air strike in Salqin included eight children. In a video released by activists from the town, a number of the victims are seen piled in the back of a pickup truck.

Another activist group, the Local Coordination Committees, said the government warplanes killed 30 people. There was no independent confirmation of the casualties because Syria restricts reporting by international journalists.

The Observatory said nationwide fighting between government and rebel forces Monday killed at least 100 people, including 18 security personnel caught in a rebel ambush in the central province of Homs.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon complained about the Syrian government's role in the conflict in a meeting with Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moualem on the sidelines of the General Assembly in New York.

A U.N. spokesman said Mr. Ban raised the issue of "continued killings, massive destruction, human rights abuses, and aerial and artillery attacks committed by the government." The spokesman said the U.N. chief appealed to Moualem for the Syrian government to "show compassion to its own people."

During a speech to the General Assembly, Moualem accused the United States, France, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Turkey of supporting "terrorism" in Syria by providing arms and money. He also characterized calls for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to step down as "blatant interference" in Syrian domestic affairs.

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Also Monday, fires broke out in more parts of Aleppo's medieval Old City as rebels and government forces engaged in fierce fighting.

The fires began in the Old City's medieval Souk al-Medina, a vast covered market, on Saturday, damaging hundreds of shops selling fabrics, perfumes and spices. Traders and visitors to the city described the fires as a side effect of the clashes in the souk.

UNESCO designated Aleppo's Old City as a World Heritage Site in 1986. UNESCO Director-General Irinia Bokova said the Syrian conflict is "destroying cultural heritage that bears witness to the country's millinary history, valued and admired the world over."

She said Syria is obliged to safeguard its heritage from war as a signatory to the 1954 Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict.

The Damascus representative of the new international envoy for Syria said the large number of deeply divided rebel groups is one of the main obstacles to the U.N. mission's efforts to end the country's prolonged crisis.

Mokhtar Lamani, who represents special envoy Lakhdar Brahimi in the Syrian capital, also pointed to "huge fragmentation" within Syrian society, which he said contributes to a high level of mistrust. He said "many elements that have nothing to do with Syria" are taking advantage of the situation.

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