DAMASCUS: A missile strike near Syria’s biggest city Aleppo killed 26 people and government warplanes pounded Qusayr, a watchdog said Monday, as a regime offensive to retake the town entered its third week.
Regime opponents also suffered a blow when one of the main groups in the National Coalition withdrew from the bloc, denouncing its leadership.
US officials said, meanwhile, that Washington would send a Patriot missile battery and F-16 fighters to Jordan for a drill and may keep them there to counter any threat posed by the Syrian war.
The missile attack on Kfar Hamra came as Assad’s forces mounted an assault on the rebel-held countryside surrounding Aleppo in the north.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the surface-to-surface missile struck around midnight, killing 26 people, including six women and eight children.
“Regime forces… are trying to take the village, and then to break the rebel siege of Nubl and Zahra,” two villages north of Aleppo, it added.
The strike comes a few days into an army offensive aimed at advancing on Aazaz, a rebel stronghold north of Aleppo, the most populated city and commercial hub before the war.
Regime forces mounted a fierce onslaught on Qusayr, the strategic town near Lebanon, and also slightly farther north in Dabaa, the site of a disused military airbase partly under insurgent control.
There were numerous dead on both sides, the Observatory said without giving any details.
An estimated 94,000 people have been killed in Syria since a peaceful protest movement that began in March 2011 quickly became an armed revolt when the regime cracked down.
Warplanes bombarded Qusayr for the second consecutive day, the Observatory said.
Three missiles also hit the flashpoint town causing serious damage, but it was unknown if there were any casualties.
Raids were also reported on the Al-Hajar al-Aswad district of southern Damascus itself, where pillars of dark smoke rose into the sky.
The Syrian Revolution General Commission announced on Monday it was withdrawing from the National Coalition.
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