Syria Crisis: Air strikes kill dozens as the situation escalates

Edited by Nelly Tawil

Suspected government air strikes in north-western Syria have killed more than 44 civilians as opposition chiefs say they are leaving peace talks in Geneva because of such attacks.

A suspected regime-bombing raid hit a market in the city of Maaret al-Numan, bringing about some of the deadliest violence since a ceasefire took effect in February and causing the deaths of 37 civilians, a monitor reported.

Footage depicted the destroyed market with the bloodied bodies of the dead and wounded scattered among warped metal stalls in a street littered with fruit and vegetables.

A fish market in the nearby town of Kafranbel was also struck killing seven civilians, a British-based monitoring group, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

Excluded from the ceasefire are the Islamic State group and al-Nusra Front whose forces have continued offensives in areas under its control.

High Negotiations Committee (HNC), the main opposition, denounced the strike at Maaret al-Numan as a “massacre” and a clear defilement of the truce.

“It is a dangerous escalation of an already fragile situation, showing contempt for the whole international community at a time when there is supposed to be a cessation of hostilities,” HNC spokesman Salem al-Meslet said.

The raid was “Assad’s response” to the HNC’s decision to suspend its formal participation in negotiations, he added.

“Our decision to postpone our participation in the Geneva talks was taken to highlight the cynicism of the regime in pretending to negotiate while escalating the violence… The world must not ignore this challenge,” Mr. Meslet said.