UPDATE 3-Air strike on bakery kills dozens in central Syria

Erika Solomon
Reuters Middle East

BEIRUT, Dec 23 (Reuters) - Dozens of people were killed in

an air strike while queuing for bread in Syria's central Hama

province on Sunday, activists said, with some residents giving

an initial count of 90 dead.

Such a toll, if confirmed, would make it one of the

deadliest air strikes in Syria's civil war.

Videos uploaded by activists showed dozens of blood-stained

bodies crumpled in the street among piles of rubble and


"When I got there, I could see piles of bodies all over the

ground. There were women and children," said Samer al-Hamawi, an

activist in the town of Halfaya, where the strike hit a bakery.

"There are also dozens of wounded."

Rami Abdelrahman, of the Syrian Observatory for Human

Rights, said: "It is still very unclear what the casualties are

... From looking at the videos I expect the death toll to be

around or above 50, and not higher than 100. But for now I am

keeping my estimate at dozens killed until we have more


Halfaya, which activists said has around 30,000 residents,

was seized by rebels last week in their 21-month-old revolt

against President Bashar al-Assad. The opposition has made a

push into the central province of Hama in order to put more

pressure on Assad's forces.

One video showed a man frantically trying to dig out a

moaning woman, drenched in blood and covered by a pile of dirt

and debris. In another, a young boy flailed helplessly in the

middle of the road. Both of his feet had been blown off in the


Hamawi said the fighter jet hit the town at around 4 p.m.,

with four rockets. Two rockets hit the bakery, where he said

more than 1,000 people had been queuing at the bakery. Shortages

of fuel and flour have made bread production erratic across the

country, and people often wait for hours to buy loaves.

"We hadn't received flour in around three days so everyone

was going to the bakery today, and lots of them were women and

children," Hamawi said. "I still don't know yet if my relatives

are among the dead."

The medical centres in Halfaya had become so crowded, he

said, that many of the wounded had been taken to hospitals in

nearby towns.

New York-based Human Rights Watch condemned army air strikes

on bakeries earlier this year, arguing that in some incidents

the Syrian military was not using enough precision to target

rebel sites, and in other instances it may have intentionally

hit civilians.

Hamawi, who spoke via Skype, uploaded a video of the scene

that showed dozens of dust-coated bodies lined up near a pile of

rubble by a concrete building, its walls blackened.

Women and children were crying and screaming as some men

rushed to the scene with motor-bikes and vans to carry away the


The authenticity of the videos could not be immediately

verified. The government restricts media access in Syria.

In another video, the cameraman could be heard sobbing as he

filmed the scene in front of him.

"God is great, God is great. It was a war plane, a war

plane," he cried.

The video showed a man stopping to pick up half a corpse

lying in the street, wrapping it up in his own jacket and

carrying it away.

Frantic residents were using their bare hands to try to pick

through blocks of concrete to reach a pile of bodies beneath


"Where are the Arabs, where is the world?" shouted one man.

"Look at all of these bodies!"

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