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Assad air raid targets market

| Saturday, Dec. 28, 2013, 6:39 p.m.
REUTERS
A child is rescued from under the rubble of a collapsed building in the Maysar neighbourhood of Aleppo December 28, 2013. The building collapsed after two air strikes in the neighbourhood by forces loyal to Syria's President Bashar al-Assad on Saturday, activists said. REUTERS/Jalal Alhalabi (SYRIA - Tags: POLITICS CIVIL UNREST CONFLICT TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY)

A Syrian government airstrike hit a crowded vegetable market in a rebel-held neighborhood of the northern city of Aleppo on Saturday, shattering cars and storefronts and killing at least 21 people, activists said.

For nearly two weeks, President Bashar Assad's warplanes and helicopters have pounded opposition-controlled areas of the divided city. Activists said the aerial assault has killed more than 400 people since it began Dec. 15.

An international peace conference is scheduled to start Jan. 22 in Switzerland. Some observers say the Aleppo assault fits into Assad's apparent strategy of trying to expose the opposition's weakness.

The bombs slammed into a marketplace in the Tariq al-Bab neighborhood, according to the Aleppo Media Center activist group and the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

Hassoun Abu Faisal, an activist, said the airstrike took place about 10 a.m. when the market was packed with shoppers.

“Cars were damaged, debris and rubble are everywhere,” he said via Skype. “Many of the wounded have lost limbs.”

One amateur video posted online showed scenes of carnage: a body, its legs twisted under it, lying in a pool of blood in front of a smashed car; the body of another man ripped in half in the middle of the street; men rushing a limp body past shattered storefronts.

In another video, blankets cover at least three bodies placed on a sidewalk. Muddy black shoes poke out from under one of the blankets.

Aleppo, Syria's largest city, has been a major front in the country's civil war since rebels launched an offensive there in mid-2012.

The Observatory, which relies on a network of activists on the ground, said 25 people, including four children, were killed and dozens were wounded. The Aleppo Media Center published a list of 21 names of people it said were killed in the air raid.

Differing death tolls are common in the chaotic aftermath of such attacks.

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