Syria regime renews aerial bombardments: Monitor

AFP , Thursday 1 Nov 2012

Analysts and rebels point to a surge in aerial bombardments as indicator of regime's desperation

Members of the Free Syrian Army climb up stairs during a patrol in Haram town, Idlib Governorate, October 30, 2012. Picture taken October 30, 2012 (Photo: Reuters)

A warplane bombed the outskirts of the rebel-held town of Harasta, east of Damascus, as helicopter gunships strafed a district of Syria's capital on Thursday, monitors said. The air force also bombarded towns in the northwestern province of Idlib, much of which is under rebel control, said the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

The violence came a day after at least 152 people were killed across Syria -- 58 civilians, 48 rebels and 46 soldiers, said the Observatory.

"Warplanes dropped three bombs on the outskirts of Harasta" in the Eastern Ghuta area home to some of the rebel Free Syrian Army's best organised and fiercest fighters, it said. Monday saw the regime carry out its heaviest air strikes since air power was first deployed in mid-summer, and intensive aerial attacks have continued, says the Observatory.

The surge in air raids -- often with the crudest kind of explosives -- is a desperate attempt by the regime to reverse rebel gains and turn populations against them, analysts and rebels say. On Thursday, fighter jets struck the towns of Talmanas and Maar Shamarin in Idlib province, said the Observatory.

The jihadist Al-Nusra Front joined the rebels in clashes near the province's biggest army base at Wadi Daif, a barracks and storehouse for arms and fuel that they have laid siege to since early October. Meanwhile, several people were injured when helicopters pounded the district of Al-Hajar Al-Aswad in southern Damascus, said the Observatory.

"One of the shells on Al-Hajar Al-Aswad... fell into the neighbourhood's sports centre," it said. The contested neighbourhood of Al-Hajar Al-Aswad was scene of intense mid-summer fighting between rebels and the army. 

Elsewhere, clashes broke out in the northern city of Aleppo as the army shelled the rebel-held district of Sukari during the night, the Observatory said, without providing details on casualties.

More than 36,000 people, the majority civilians, have been killed in Syria since the uprising against Bashar al-Assad's regime broke out in March 2011, according to the Britain-based monitor. The watchdog collects its information from a country-wide network of activists, lawyers and medics in civilian and military hospitals.

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