Syrian missile strike kills 19, say activists



Beirut: A Syrian missile strike leveled a stretch of buildings and killed at least 19 people in the city of Aleppo, leaving residents combing through the rubble to find those trapped beneath it, anti-regime activists said on Tuesday.

The strike was the latest salvo in a fierce and bloody 7-month battle for Syria's largest city and economic center, a key prize in the civil war.

Rebels have slowly expanded their control over parts of Aleppo since first storming it last summer. The city is now divided between rebel- and regime-controlled zones.

Rebel forces have been trying for weeks to capture the city's international airport and two military airbases nearby, while the government is bringing in reinforcements from areas it still controls further south and regularly bombing rebel areas from the air.

The Britain-based activist group the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said 19 people were confirmed dead in the attack late yesterday night, including six children and three women.

The activist Aleppo Media Center said more than 40 were killed, though it did not provide names or videos of the dead. There was no way to reconcile the differing tolls.

Both groups said the strike appeared to be from a ground-to-ground missile. The Syrian government did not comment.

Activist Mohammed al-Khatib of the AMC said via Skype that the death toll could rise further as residents search the site for more bodies.

"There are still many martyrs under the rubble. ... There are still lots of people missing from the area," he said.

He said the strike appeared to be from a large ground-to-ground missile because of the scale of the destruction and because residents did not report hearing a fighter jet, as they usually do during airstrikes.

Videos posted online showed scores of men searching the destroyed buildings in the poor Jabal Badro neighbourhood for the dead and wounded. One man swung a sledgehammer to break through concrete while a bulldozer hauled off rubble. In another video, a man covered in grey dust struggled under pile of concrete.

PTI