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Barrel bombs kill 71 civilians after Syria army retreats

By AFP - May 30,2015 - Last updated at May 30,2015

ALEPPO, Syria — Barrel bombs dropped from regime helicopters Saturday killed more than 70 civilians in Syria's Aleppo. 

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said "at least 71 civilians were killed, and dozens wounded when regime helicopters dropped barrel bombs" on the provincial town of Al Bab and Al Shaar district of the city of Aleppo.

In the worst carnage, 59 civilians, all male, were killed at a market in jihadist-controlled Al Bab, observatory director Rami Abdel Rahman told AFP.

"People often gather on Saturday mornings at Al Hail market in Al Bab, which is why the number of dead was so high," explained Abdel Rahman.

“Those killed were all male because women have much less freedom of movement in areas controlled by the Islamic State [Daesh] jihadist group,” he added.

The head of the Britain-based monitoring group said 12 people were also killed in rebel-held Al Shaar, including eight members of a single family.

Victims' bodies were laid out on the streets of the neighbourhood, with the limp blood-covered hand of one of them protruding from under a blanket, said an AFP correspondent at the scene.

Shahud Hussein, one of the civil defence volunteers helping to clear rubble in Al Shaar, said the blasts were so powerful that buildings were "likely to collapse".

 

Rapid retreat

 

Barrel bombs — crude weapons made of containers packed with explosives — have often struck schools, hospitals, and markets in Syria. 

But Saturday’s death toll was among the highest. 

“This is one of the biggest massacres that regime planes have committed since the beginning of 2015,” said the Syrian Revolution General Commission activist group. 

The observatory said regime forces also dropped barrel bombs Friday in Idlib province, now under the de facto control of rebels after regime forces withdrew, leaving Al Qaeda and its allies to capture the city of Ariha and surrounding villages.

The tactic of carrying out air attacks on built-up areas after battleground losses has become common practise for Syria’s regime, which has ceded swathes of territory this month.

Following defeats in Idlib’s provincial capital and at a massive military base nearby, government forces also lost the ancient city of Palmyra to Daesh jihadists on May 21. 

In northeast Syria on Saturday, Daesh launched an assault on Hasakeh city, which has a large Kurdish population. 

The observatory said at least 10 pro-government forces and 10 jihadists were killed. 

The Assyrian Network for Human Rights activist group said Daesh had seized one checkpoint on Hasakeh’s edges.

 

In a provincial town to the north, Kurdish militia executed at least 20 civilians Friday, including two children, after accusing them of being IS supporters, the observatory reported.

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