Middle East

Syria conflict: Deadly missile strike on northern town

Aftermath of what activists said was a missile attack in northern Syrian town of Marea (20 May 2014) Image copyright Reuters
Image caption A local activist said he was not aware of any fighting between rebel and government forces in the Marea area

At least 13 people, including eight children, have been killed in a missile strike on the town of Marea in north-eastern Syria, activists say.

Several more were reportedly wounded when the missile hit overnight, while most residents were asleep.

Witnesses told the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights that the missile was fired by a government warplane.

On Tuesday morning, an aerial attack killed another 10 people in nearby Azaz, the UK-based group reported.

Helicopter gunships opened fire on the eastern entrance to the town, which is located in Aleppo province, not far from the border with Turkey.

A local activist, Abu al-Hassan, told the Associated Press that an entire family - Mohammed Jafar, 70, his 40-year-old wife, and their eight children - had been killed in the Marea attack.

He said he was not aware of any fighting in the area, and that the nearest front was 25km (15 miles) away in the Bureij area, suggesting the missile was fired indiscriminately.

'Chlorine bomb attack'

Also on Tuesday, activists said forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad had dropped a chlorine bomb on the rebel-held village of Kafr Zaita in Hama province, killing a teenager, according to the Reuters news agency.

They posted video footage of men and children being treated in a field hospital. Many were lying down and one man appeared unresponsive.

It was the sixth alleged chlorine gas attack in the village in two months.

Chlorine is a common industrial chemical, but its use as a weapon is banned by the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC). Syria signed the treaty last year after the nerve agent sarin was used in an attack on several suburbs of Damascus that killed hundreds of people.

Meanwhile, Russia has rejected a draft UN Security Council resolution calling for the conflict in Syria to be referred to the International Criminal Court (ICC), the Russian news agency Interfax reported.

Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov described the draft, which calls for the allegations of crimes against humanity and war crimes to be investigated, as "unacceptable".

"If it is put to a vote, we will veto it," Mr Gatilov was quoted as saying.

Syria is not a party to the Rome Statute, the treaty establishing the ICC. Unless the government ratifies the treaty or accepts the jurisdiction of the court through a declaration, the ICC could only obtain jurisdiction if the Security Council refers the situation there to the court.

More than 160,000 people are estimated to have been killed in Syria since the uprising against President Assad began in March 2011. Another 9.5 million, almost half of the population, have been driven from their homes.

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