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Syrian Government Bombs Aleppo District, Killing 16

  • VOA News

Syrian man carries his sister who was wounded in a government airstrike hit the neighborhood of Ansari, in Aleppo, Syria, Sunday, Feb. 3, 2013.

Syrian man carries his sister who was wounded in a government airstrike hit the neighborhood of Ansari, in Aleppo, Syria, Sunday, Feb. 3, 2013.

Syrian rights activists say government forces have bombarded a rebel-held district of the northern city of Aleppo, demolishing a residential building and killing at least 16 people.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said a missile struck the building in Aleppo's Ansari neighborhood on Sunday. Amateur video posted on the Internet showed dozens of people frantically digging through rubble to find survivors. The Observatory said 10 children were among the dead. There was no independent confirmation of the casualties.

Aleppo, Syria's commercial capital, has been divided between Syrian opposition forces and troops loyal to President Bashar al-Assad since last year.

Some exiled opposition figures criticized their leader, Moaz al-Khatib, on Sunday, after he expressed a willingness to talk to Assad's government and met with the foreign ministers of Assad allies Russia and Iran in recent days. In his meetings on the sidelines of a Munich security conference, Khatib said he would negotiate with the Syrian government if it conducts a mass prisoner release and gives passports to exiled Syrians.

Previously, the opposition Syrian National Coalition had demanded that Assad give up his 12-year rule before any negotiations.

SNC member Kamal Labwani told The Associated Press that Khatib should apologize or resign for proposing talks with the government. In a separate interview with Reuters, coalition member Walid al-Bunni said Khatib's meeting with Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi was "unsuccessful," and did not persuade Iran to do anything to help the Syrian opposition.

Salehi and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov welcomed Khatib's proposal to enter negotiations.

In another development Sunday, Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak appeared to acknowledge that his nation was behind an airstrike near Damascus last Wednesday. Referring to the incident at the Munich conference, Barak said it was "proof that when we say something, we mean it"; Barak did not explicitly confirm responsibility for the air strike, but he was the first senior Israeli official to talk about it publicly.

Syria says Israeli warplanes bombed a military research center near Damascus, killing two people. U.S. and regional security officials have said Israel struck the center and nearby vehicles that were carrying advanced missiles intended for delivery to pro-Assad militant group Hezbollah in neighboring Lebanon. Syria denied that any weapons convoy was hit in the air strike.

Speaking in Munich, Barak repeated Israel's warning that it will not allow Mr. Assad to transfer advanced weapons systems into Lebanon, where Hezbollah dominates the government and fought a monthlong war with Israel in 2006.

In President Assad's first reported response to the attack, state news agency SANA quoted him as accusing Israel of trying to destabilize Syria. He also vowed that the Syrian military will "confront any aggression."

Assad made the comment Sunday, in a meeting with the visiting head of Iran's National Security Council, Saeed Jalili.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan also denounced the apparent Israeli air strike, calling it "state terrorism." Erdogan has been an outspoken critic of Israel since 2010, when Israeli troops carried out a deadly raid on a Turkish ship carrying pro-Palestinian activists toward the Gaza Strip. Nine Turkish activists on the ship were killed in a confrontation that each side blamed on the other.

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