DAMASCUS (AFP) – A ‘terrorist’ group attacked the rebel-held town of Halfaya in central Syria killing women and children, news agency SANA said on Monday, rebuffing claims the deaths were a result of a regime air strike.
Activists have said more than 60 people were killed and at least 50 wounded in the town on Sunday, accusing Syrian aerial forces of bombing a local bakery.
SANA, the official news agency, however gave a vastly different account, citing residents of the town located in the central province of Hama.
“An armed terrorist group attacked the town of Halfaya committing crimes against the population, killing many women and children,” it said.
The report added that the Syrian army intervened during the assault and “killed and wounded many terrorists”, a term Syrian officials and state media use to refer to rebels fighting to oust the Damascus regime.
“Terrorists then shot video images to accuse the Syrian army when the international envoy Lakhdar Brahimi arrived in Syria,” the agency said.
Video footage posted online by activists showed a bombed one-storey block and a crater in the road.
Bloodied bodies lay on the road, while others could be seen in the rubble. Men carried victims out on their backs, among them at least one woman. The video could not immediately be verified.
The opposition Syrian National Council blamed the international community for “being responsible for this massacre… by not supporting the Syrian people.”
During the summer, rights groups accused government forces of committing war crimes by dropping bombs and using artillery on or near several bakeries in the northern province of Aleppo.
One of the bloodiest attacks in the Syrian conflict was on a bread line in the Qadi Askar district of Aleppo city on August 16 that left 60 people dead, according to local hospital records.
Including those who died in Halfaya, a total of 198 people were killed on Sunday across Syria, according to figures given by the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which relies on a network of medics and activists on the ground.
Brahimi arrived in Syria on Sunday from neighbouring Lebanon to launch a fresh bid to resolve the brutal 21-month conflict that has already killed tens of thousands of people. He said on Monday he had held talks in Damascus with President Bashar al-Assad.