Syria’s air force has killed at least 20 people, including 17 children, in the latest strike on battered Aleppo city, as civilians bear the brunt of the civil war.
The air strikes on Wednesday came a day after at least 100 people, including some 80 civilians, died in a twin car bomb attack on a pro-regime area of Homs claimed by the al-Qaeda affiliated al-Nusra Front.
Despite the ongoing conflict, the regime of Bashar al-Assad is preparing for a presidential election slammed as a farce by the opposition and by the United States as a “parody of democracy”.
In Aleppo, Syria’s second city, twin air strikes hit a school in the rebel-held Ansari neighbourhood Wednesday, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
Amateur video distributed by activists showed rows of bodies of children, some of them bloodied, wrapped in grey body bags on the ground.
Aleppo’s opposition council condemned the attack in a statement, and appealed to the “world’s conscience” for action over Syria, “for the sake of the values and principles you defend, because your silence is killing us”.
Rebel-held areas of Aleppo have come under massive assault from the air since mid-December.
The government’s use of barrel bombs – unguided munitions usually dropped from altitude to avoid ground fire – has come in for particular criticism from human rights watchdogs because of their indiscriminate toll on civilians.
Hours later, al-Nusra Front carried out two suicide attacks in the Aleppo countryside, killing and wounding “dozens of troops and pro-regime militiamen”, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
The al-Nusra Front had earlier claimed an attack on Tuesday against Homs’ Abbasiyeh neighbourhood, mainly inhabited by members of Assad’s Alawite minority community.
“God allowed the al-Nusra Front’s fighters to achieve a feat despite draconian security measures. It is so that they (residents of pro-regime areas) taste the hell that our brothers have tasted,” a statement said.
According to Observatory director Rami Abdel Rahman, the attacks come amid a major government offensive aimed at reclaiming a handful of rebel areas in the heart of Homs.
Hundreds of people have been killed and thousands of families displaced from Homs by violence since the anti-Assad revolt broke out in March 2011.
The attacks come just weeks away from a presidential election that will be held in regime-controlled territory.