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Syrian government strikes kill 25, including 12 children

Regime forces continue drive to push back rebels

BEIRUT— Syrian government warplanes carried out airstrikes on a rebellious neighborhood in the capital and a village in the country’s northeast Sunday, killing at least 25 people, including a dozen children, activists said.

With its ground forces stretched thin, President Bashar Assad’s regime has relied heavily on fighter jets and helicopters to stem rebel advances in the civil war. The air raids frequently hit civilian areas, drawing criticism from the international community.

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A Human Rights Watch report last week accused the Syrian government of committing war crimes by using indiscriminate and sometimes deliberate airstrikes against civilians, killing at least 4,300 people since the summer.

On Sunday, a government jet bombed rebel-held areas in the predominantly Kurdish village of Hadad in the northeastern province of Hassaka, according to the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. It said at least 16 people were killed, including two women and three children.

A Hassaka-based activist who was in Hadad when the plane struck said the bombs sent huge plumes of black smoke billowing over the town. He spoke on condition that he be identified only by his nickname of Abu Qasem — by which he is widely known among his comrades — out of fear of reprisals.

Another airstrike on the Damascus neighborhood of Qaboun killed at least nine children, the Observatory said.

The government frequently targets Qaboun, where rebels pushed into early this year. The district has been ravaged by heavy street clashes and shelling since then as the military tries to expel anti-Assad fighters.

The SANA state news agency said ‘‘terrorists’’ fired mortar rounds that struck a bus station in the Damascus suburb of Jaramana, killing four people and wounding 20. The Syrian regime describes those trying to topple Assad as terrorists.

SANA said the attack caused significant damage to cars and buses parked at the station.

The Observatory, which relies on a network of activists on the ground, also said four civilians died after being tortured in a jail in the town of Zakyeh. It did not provide further details.

Sunday in Idlib Province in northwestern Syria, troops reached the embattled military bases of Hamadiya and Wadi Deif near the city of Maaret al-Numan, Observatory director Rami Abdul-Rahman said.

The government forces killed more than 20 rebels in an ambush in the area Saturday, opening the way for supplies to reach the facilities. The military had been forced to drop supplies in by helicopter because rebels controlled the area.

Syria’s rebels — a mosaic of factions with different ideologies and no united command — have pried much of the country’s north from regime forces, and captured their first provincial capital — Raqqa city on the Euphrates River — last month.

Rebels also have made significant gains in recent weeks in southern Syria near the border with Jordan, capturing military bases and territory that could provide anti-Assad fighters with a staging ground for an eventual assault on Damascus.

The push in the south has coincided with what Western and Arab officials say is US-backed training of opposition fighters in Jordan and an influx of foreign-funded weapons into the south. The rebel advances have given the opposition momentum and put the government on the defensive in the two-year civil war that the United Nations estimates has killed more than 70,000 people.

The fighting has spilled over on several occasions into neighboring states, including Lebanon, Turkey, and Israel.

On Sunday, two rockets fired from Syria exploded in the Lebanese border village of al-Qasr, killing one person and wounding two, a Lebanese security official. Two more rockets landed in a neaby village, killing a boy.

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