Up to 15 killed in air strikes carried out in Aleppo

Sunday 07 April 2013 10.34
Bashar al-Assad accused the west of hypocrisy yesterday
Bashar al-Assad accused the west of hypocrisy yesterday

A Syrian government air strike has killed 15 people, including nine children, in a district of the northern city of Aleppo.

Kurdish fighters have been battling forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad, a violence monitoring group said.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said a warplane had bombarded the western edges of the Sheikh Maqsoud district of Aleppo.

Aleppo is Syria's biggest city, where President al-Assad's forces have been battling rebels for nine months.

In Damascus, state media said rebels fired a mortar bomb into the heart of the capital, killing one person, injuring several others and causing damage to buildings and cars nearby.

President Assad has lost swathes of territory in the north and east of the country.

Rebels hold several eastern and southern districts of Damascus and pose a growing challenge in the southern province of Deraa.

Deraa is the cradle of the two-year uprising and could become a platform for greater assaults on the capital.

Yesterday the president warned of a 'domino effect' if he was overthrown.

His remarks were a reiteration of his long-standing argument that Syria and the region will face a bleak future if he falls.

His foes argue that his determination to keep power at all costs has already plunged his country into disaster.

The United Nations says at least 70,000 people have been killed in Syrian's conflict.

Daily death tolls of around 200 are not uncommon, monitoring groups say.

More than a million refugees have fled the country and the Syrian Red Crescent says nearly four million have been internally displaced.

Neighbouring Lebanon and Jordan are both struggling to cope with the flood of refugees.

The sectarian element of the conflict, with mainly Sunni Muslim and Islamist fighters battling a president from Syria's Alawite minority, has also raised tensions in neighbours such as Lebanon and Iraq.

Mr Assad has accused opponents of using "sectarian slogans".

He says the essence of the battle was between "forces and states seeking to take their people back into historic times, and states wanting to take their peoples into a prosperous future".

Mr Assad appeared to be referring to Sunni Muslim Gulf states Saudi Arabia and Qatar.

These countries have absolute monarchies which have supported efforts to arm insurgents in an uprising which began with peaceful protests for reform and spiralled into civil war.

Mr Assad said Turkey's Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan was recruiting fighters with Qatari money to wage war in Syria, but warned his former friend that the bloodshed could not easily be contained.

"The fire in Syria will burn Turkey. Unfortunately he does not see this reality," Mr Assad said.

Mr Erdogan, he said, "has not uttered a single truthful word since the crisis in Syria began".

Mr Assad also condemned the Arab League, which has suspended Syria's membership and last month invited opposition leaders Moaz Alkhatib and Ghassan Hitto to attend a summit meeting in his place.

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