Beirut: At least 49 civilians, including six children, were killed on Monday in Syrian government air strikes on a town in Idlib province in the country’s northwest, a monitoring group said.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the raids hit a square in the town of Al-Janudiyah, in the west of the province, which is now almost completely controlled by opposition forces.
“It’s a public square, and a lot of people gather there because there are shops,” said Observatory director Rami Abdel Rahman.
He told AFP that people displaced from other areas of Idlib province had also sought refuge in Al-Janudiyah.
Regime military aircraft fired missiles on the town, he said.
Video uploaded on the YouTube website by activists showed absolute chaos in the aftermath of the strikes, with the air thick with grey smoke and dust and the square scattered with the rubble of buildings and the body parts of victims.
One video showed men picking through rubble next to the twisted metal of a mangled mini-bus as an older woman ran past gripping the hand of a child.
Other footage, apparently filmed later, showed members of the local civil defence force joining the rescue mission, and at least one bulldozer clearing rubble from the square.
Al-Janudiyah has been under opposition control since 2013, but much of Idlib province has only recently fallen to a rebel alliance that includes Al-Qaeda affiliate Al-Nusra Front.
Known as the Army of Conquest, the alliance has swept through the province since seizing the provincial capital Idlib city on March 28.
Since then, it has taken the key strategic town of Jisr al-Shughur, as well as the largest military base in the province.
The advances have left regime forces with only a handful of positions in the province.
But the army has continued to wage war from the air, using both conventional air strikes and deadly barrel bombs — containers packed with crude explosives and shrapnel that have been condemned by rights groups for being indiscriminate.