Syrian government helicopters have dropped barrel bombs on opposition-held districts of the northern city of Aleppo, killing at least 60 people, including several children, and injuring dozens, activists said.
Most of the victims apparently died in a popular market in the al-Sukari district on Monday. Opposition activists said the market was packed with residents waiting to get food aid at a distribution centre.
Two bombs hit Sukari minutes apart, with the second catching helpers who had gone to the assistance of people injured in the first, activists say.
Al Jazeera cannot independently confirm the number of casualties provided by opposition activists.
“We were sleeping safely when the first barrel dropped around midnight,” resident Abu Mohammad told news agency AFP.
“And when people came to the rescue, a second barrel dropped, so all those people who were on the site were dead.
“We don’t have military bases in our area. All people here are civilians,” he said.
The other bomb hit Aleppo’s Ashrafiyeh neighbourhood.
Syria’s regime has waged a fierce aerial offensive against rebel-held areas of Aleppo since December.
Rights groups have decried the regime’s use of barrel bombs as unlawful because they lack any guidance mechanism, causing indiscriminate casualties.
Tens of thousands of people have fled rebel-held districts of Aleppo because of the bombings.
Meanwhile, residents of the Armenian Christian village of Kasab on Syria’s border with Turkey began returning home on Monday, dancing, cheering and waving flags in the main square a day after the army retook the area from rebels.
Area seized by Assad forces
The fall of Kasab to President Bashar al-Assad’s forces less than three months after the rebels captured it dealt another symbolic and strategic blow to an opposition undermined in recent months by infighting and government gains.
A field commander in the Syrian army told Reuters the area including the border crossing had come under full control of government forces after they struck at rebel storehouses and supply routes and seized a tract overlooking the village.
“After driving away the terrorist groups that were in Kasab to Turkish territories, I send a message to the all the terrorist groups that are in Syria to return to handover their weapons or their destiny will be to die underneath the blows of Syrian Arab Army,” he said during a government-organised visit to Kasab, declining to give his name.
A Reuters reporter saw dozens of residents returning, with some kicking up their heels in the village’s main square, raising Syrian flags and surveying damage inflicted on some of the village’s buildings, including churches.
Sawssan Tokmaji, a resident flying the Syrian flag as she re-entered the town, said was full of mixed feelings.
“I am so happy that I returned, but there is a lot of damage,” she said.
“There is sadness in my heart, but there’s even more joy that we have been able to return so quickly. Elsewhere it has taken some people longer, but here we were forced to stay away for only three months,” she said.