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Missile that flattened district killed 31 Syrians: NGO

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

An apparent surface-to-surface missile strike killed at least 31 people, nearly half of them children, when it flattened a residential district of Syria's second city Aleppo, a watchdog said Tuesday.

"It is likely that a surface-to-surface missile strike" hit Jabal Badro, on the edge of the northern city, late on Monday, said the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

Fourteen children and five women were among the dead, and the "toll is likely to rise as bodies are being retrieved from under the rubble," said the Britain-based group, adding some people were critically injured.

There were no planes overhead when the missile hit, according to residents cited by the Observatory, and the extent of the destruction indicated a surface-to-surface missile was likely used, director Rami Abdel Rahman told AFP.

Abu Hisham, an Aleppo-based citizen journalist who spoke to AFP over the Internet, said "housing in the district was informally built. It took one surface-to-surface rocket to destroy an entire neighbourhood."

Video footage and photographs shot by activists in Aleppo, scene of fierce fighting since the army launched an all-out assault to stop a rebel advance on Syria's second city on July 20, showed massive destruction in Jabal Badro.

Amateur film posted online by the anti-regime Aleppo Media Centre showed crowds of people gathering around hills of rubble and a bulldozer shovelling the debris as residents searched for relatives.

"I swear to God! I rescued a baby aged just two months from the rubble!" an unidentified man cried out in the video, whose authenticity AFP could not verify.

The Syrian National Council, the biggest bloc in the umbrella opposition National Coalition, linked the attack to the paralysis of the international community, and criticised the European Union for deciding against arming the rebellion.

"Hours after the European decision to continue to deprive the Syrian people of the arms they need to defend themselves and the (Monday) report of the UN Commission of Inquiry, which makes no moral distinction between the genocide perpetrated by the regime and individual abuses... the regime bombed Aleppo city... leaving dozens of civilians killed," said the SNC.

"The destruction of Syria by Russian missiles, Iranian weapons and Hezbollah fighters are the result of the European decision, the Arab silence and lost time due to stillborn international initiatives," it added.

European Union foreign ministers on Monday decided to maintain an embargo against arming Syrian rebels fighting the regime of President Bashar al-Assad.

On the same day, a UN commission of inquiry found war crimes by both government forces and rebels were spiralling in the embattled country, though it underlined that the regime was still the major perpetrator.

Activists have reported the army's use of surface-to-surface missiles on various targets in northern Syria since late 2012.

A security source in Damascus told AFP late last year that such missiles were a Syrian-made version of the Scud, and NATO has since reported ballistic missiles being used in Syria.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130219/missile-flattened-district-killed-31-syrians-ngo