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Government Airstrike Destroys Damascus City Block

This image taken from video obtained from Ugarit News, which has been authenticated based on its contents and other AP reporting, shows smoke and fire after a fighter jet crashed into a suburb of Damascus, Syria, Feb. 20, 2013.
A Syrian government airstrike over a Damascus suburb on Wednesday destroyed parts of a city block, killing or wounding dozens. The strike came amid intensified government shelling of rebel-held districts in and around the capital in recent days.

Young men screamed and cursed as they dug through the rubble of burning and collapsed buildings to pull out victims of a government airstrike in the Damascus suburb of Hamouriya. A live webcam broadcast showed a large city block engulfed in fire, as smoke poured from the ruins.

Fire and rescue vehicles arrived at the scene to try to douse dozens of burning shops, cars and buildings. Young men used crowbars to pry open smoldering vehicles and remove bodies, as ambulances ferried survivors away from the blast site.

Deaths from Syrian conflict, updated Feb. 14, 2013.
Deaths from Syrian conflict, updated Feb. 14, 2013.
Elsewhere, witnesses reported intense bouts of shelling and multiple airstrikes by government forces in southern and eastern rebel-held districts of Damascus and its suburbs. A top rebel officer reportedly was wounded in one such government attack on the besieged suburb of Daraya.

In the Damascus district of Zamalka, a football player was killed and several others wounded when mortar rounds fell at a stadium complex. Syrian state TV reported that rebels had fired the mortars, showing a glass-strewn room and blood-stained sports bag allegedly belonging to one of the players.

Rebel sources claimed that mortar shells fired at a pro-government Ba'ath Party headquarters missed their target, hitting the stadium complex. Syrian government forces have taken over many stadiums and sports facilities during the 23 month-old conflict to use as military garrisons.

In Syria's northern commercial hub-city of Aleppo, rebel forces continued to attack the city's main international airport. Amateur video showed rebel fighters holding positions overlooking the airport. Government forces have sent in reinforcements in recent days to try to break the rebel siege.

Hilal Khashan, who teaches political science at the American University of Beirut, said the government has lost control of the main highway from Damascus to Aleppo, from Hama to Aleppo, but that government forces were able to use another route to send in reinforcements.

"Between Hama and Aleppo, the highway is in rebel hands. However, [the government] can access Aleppo through the deserts. There are by-roads and actually, heavy vehicles don't need paved roads in order to travel," said Khashan.

At the Arab Cooperation Forum in Moscow, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov warned that neither the Syrian government, nor the rebels, can win the conflict militarily, and that it must be solved through dialogue.

Lavrov said what is happening now shows it is time to put an end to the two-year long conflict because neither side can count on a military solution, which he said is a road to nowhere, just the mutual destruction of the nation.

The conference was attended by Arab League Secretary General Nabil ElArabi and the foreign ministers of Lebanon and Egypt. Both Russia and the Arab League said they are trying to create a transitional government to broker an end to Syria's conflict.