Last Updated: Thu Aug 16, 2012 23:21 pm (KSA) 20:21 pm (GMT)

Civilian, army deaths mount as FSA claims killed 35 Syrian soldiers

A man searches for the bodies of people who were killed during a recent Syrian Air Force air strike in Aazaz, some 47 km (29 miles) north of Aleppo. (Reuters)
A man searches for the bodies of people who were killed during a recent Syrian Air Force air strike in Aazaz, some 47 km (29 miles) north of Aleppo. (Reuters)

The Free Syrian Army (FSA) said Thursday that it has killed 35 soldiers from President Bashar al-Assad’s regime in Aleppo, and showed a video of weapons it claimed to have seized from the embattled regime in Damascus.

The FSA’s Abu Bakr al-Sadiq Brigade announced in a video broadcast on Al Arabiya that among the weapons it has seized, there were four 23 mm anti-aircraft guns and one rocket to “down Assad’s helicopters.”

It said the weapons were taken in a joint operation with the Ghota Western Brigades from Damascus, after clashes with forces loyal to Assad on the outskirts of the capital, in al-Dhamir city.

At least 197 people have been killed across Syria by security force gunfire so far on Thursday, according to the Local Coordination Committees activist group. But the Syrian Network for Human Rights said that 229 people were killed in the country, mainly in Aleppo and Damascus.

Neither figure could be independently confirmed.

Violence continues

The alleged capture of anti-aircraft weapons came after a string of houses were flattened and dozens of people, including children, were killed Wednesday by a Syrian air force strike, activists said. The bombing in the town of Aazaz, a rebel bastion in the north of the city of Aleppo, reportedly left residents wailing in grief and anger.

“Bashar did this. God help us, these animals will kill us all,” said one man, hoisting a bloodied arm from a pile of body parts on the pavement outside the hospital in the town of Aazaz after the bombardment.

The bombings sent panicked civilians fleeing for cover. So many were wounded that the local hospital locked its doors, directing residents to drive to the nearby Turkish border so the injured could be treated on the other side. One person’s remains were bundled into a small satchel.

A group of young men found a man buried in the wreckage of destroyed homes, his clothes torn and his limbs dirty, but still alive.

“God is great! God is great!” they chanted as they yanked him out and laid him on a blanket.

Clashes, shelling elsewhere

In Damascus, the Syrian Revolution General Commission said shelling at al-Maza area near al-Razi hospital was taking place on Wednesday. Earlier in the day, clashes between FSA and the regime’s forces behind the Iranian embassy were reported after an attack against government headquarters in Damascus it claimed responsible for.

Meanwhile, the military council for the rebel army called for emergency relief for al-Tal city in the countryside of Damascus after its shelling by the Syrian regime.

Clashes ensued between FSA and the regime’s forces in the north-eastern city of al-Hasaka after the rebel army attacked recruitment center for Assad’s army near al-Adly Palace. In Deraa and Deir al-Zour cities shelling by Assad’s regime was also reported.

U.N. to consider new Syria office

Meanwhile, the Security Council on Thursday will debate whether to establish a new civilian office to support U.N. and Arab League efforts to end the 18-month conflict in Syria as the U.N. military observer mission comes to an end Sunday.

The council had set two conditions for possibly extending the mission of the unarmed observers past Aug. 19: a halt to the government's use of heavy weapons and a significant reduction in violence. In a letter to the council last Friday, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said neither condition was met and Syria now risks “a descent into a full-scale civil war.”

But with the end of the unarmed observer mission looming, Ban said, “it is imperative for the United Nations to have a presence in Syria” aside from its humanitarian operation in order to support U.N. and Arab League efforts “in mediating and facilitating a peaceful resolution to the crisis.”

The Security Council initially authorized the 300-strong observer mission to deploy to Syria for 90 days to monitor implementation of a six-point peace plan brokered by U.N.-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan. The plan was to start with a cease-fire and withdrawal of the government's heavy weapons and culminate with Syrian-led political talks.

President Assad’s government and opposition forces agreed to the plan, but it was never implemented.

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