May 24, 2013
Syrian air strike kills at least 54, activists
At least 54 people were killed when a Syrian air strike hit a fuel station in the northern province of al-Raqqa, an area of heavy fighting between government and rebel forces, a British-based monitoring group said.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which has a network of activists across Syria reporting on government violence during the 18-month-old revolt, cited an activist in the region saying that more than 110 people were dead or wounded.
A video published by activists, said to be from al-Raqqa, showed black clouds of smoke rising from the wreckage of the petrol station as bewildered residents examined the scene following the attack by a Syrian air force jet.
Government forces shelled rebels near a border crossing with Turkey some 30 km (18 miles) away on the northern fringes of al-Raqqa, a day after it was seized by the insurgents.
A Reuters witness on the Turkish side of the border heard heavy gunfire and explosions close to the Tel Abyad border post, where an opposition flag still fluttered. Residents rushed towards the border as the gunfire intensified.
It was impossible to verify the authenticity of the activists' video, and most foreign journalists are barred entry into Syria, making varying accounts of events difficult to confirm.
President Bashar al-Assad has used helicopters and fighter jets to fire at and bomb parts of the country where insurgents have been operating, including residential districts of the capital and Syria's main cities.
Assad's forces have targeted petrol stations in rural towns and villages and along main roads to deprive rebels of fuel. Civilians have set up smaller, discreet fuel outlets.
Activists say more than 27,000 people have been killed in a conflict that began with peaceful street protests and mushroomed into civil war after Assad tried military force to stamp out the unrest. Last month was the bloodiest yet.
Earlier on Thursday, Syria's information ministry said that a Syrian military helicopter that crashed near the capital had clipped the tail of a Syrian Arab Airlines passenger plane, but the 200 people on board escaped unharmed.
"The helicopter struck the tail of the plane ... The control tower at Damascus airport confirmed that the plane landed safely at Damascus airport and all 200 passengers are in good health," a statement published on the state news channel Syria TV said.