A deadly car bomb tore through a mainly Christian Damascus suburb Monday while Syrian warplanes pounded Aleppo province, killing dozens of people, as the opposition pleaded for arms and intervention.
The violence came as the head of the Red Cross travelled to Damascus on a humanitarian mission and CIA chief David Petraeus visited Turkey for talks expected to focus on the Syrian crisis.
Among those killed in the latest bloodshed was an entire family — including seven children — when a government air raid hit their home in the heart of Aleppo, witnesses told an AFP correspondent in Syria’s second city.
The bodies of the children were laid out under fly-ridden blankets in the back of a yellow pick-up truck outside a hospital before a hurried funeral, the correspondent reported.
“This is all one family,” said tailor Hassan Dalati, who survived the raid on Al-Sultan Street in the city of 2.7 million people.
A fighter jet also struck in nearby Al-Bab, killing at least 18 people, with more unaccounted for beneath the rubble of flattened homes, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said. Doctors said nine people died.
The dawn raid on a building being used as a shelter followed repeated overflights by military aircraft during the night, residents said.
“We were sleeping at home when the first bomb struck. I made a run for the door when a second blast buried me,” said a barely conscious survivor, peppered with shrapnel from head to foot.
The army also pounded Aleppo city, the Observatory said, more than five weeks after the start of what President Bashar al-Assad’s regime warned would be “the mother of all battles” for the commercial hub.
A senior commander in charge of the regime offensive on Aleppo told AFP that the army would recapture the northern city from the rebel forces “within 10 days.”
Some 3,000 troops were involved in the fight against about 7,000 “terrorists,” said the general, adding that 2,000 of the insurgents had been killed since the assault on Aleppo was launched at the start of August.
The Observatory gave an updated toll of at least 138 people killed across Syria on Monday — 78 of them civilians — after 132 people died in violence the previous day.
The watchdog, which has a network of activists on the ground, also reported that a car bomb ripped through the mainly Christian and Druze suburb of Jaramana on Monday, killing at least five people.
Another 27 people were wounded in the blast, it said, adding that the attack struck the area of Al-Wehdeh on the edges of Jaramana.
The southeastern suburb was previously hit by a car bomb on August 28, when at least 27 people attending a funeral for two supporters of the Damascus regime were killed.
“There is an increase of the use of car bombs in Syria,” the Observatory’s Rami Abdel Rahman told AFP.
In Madrid, the opposition Syrian National Council appealed to the international community for weapons and urgent military intervention to defend civilians from such attacks.
“We need a humanitarian intervention and we are asking for military intervention for the Syrian civilians,” SNC chairman Abdel Basset Sayda said. “I have the duty of asking for weapons that will allow us to defend against the Syrian armour and weapons.”
Sayda said the conflict had now killed 30,000 people and forced millions from their homes, including more than three million displaced inside the country and 250,000 who had fled abroad. Another 100,000 had been detained.
According to the Observatory, more than 26,000 people have been killed in Syria since the revolt began in March last year — more than two-thirds of them civilians.
The plight of refugees is expected to be among the top priorities of Peter Maurer, the president of the International Committee of the Red Cross who travelled to Damascus on Monday for a three-day visit.
Maurer would “discuss pressing humanitarian issues” during meetings on Tuesday with President Assad, Foreign Minister Walid Muallem and other ministers, the ICRC said.
“At a time when more and more civilians are being exposed to extreme violence, it is of the utmost importance that we and the Syrian Arab Red Crescent succeed in significantly scaling up our humanitarian response,” said Maurer.
Damascus said late Sunday that new UN-Arab League envoy Lakhdar Brahimi would soon travel to Damascus, without providing a date, while expressing confidence “he will listen to us.”
But Brahimi gave a deeply pessimistic view of the task ahead of him, in an interview with the BBC.
“I know how difficult it is — how nearly impossible. I can’t say impossible — (it is) nearly impossible,” he said.
Syrian Information Minister Omran al-Zohbi said Brahimi’s success depended on states such as Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar.
“The success of Lakhdar Brahimi does not depend on Syria,” said Zohbi.
“Brahimi’s success depends on certain states — such as Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Turkey — respecting his mission, by closing their borders to armed men, and by ceasing to provide weapons,” he added.
In Ankara, a US official told AFP that CIA director Petraeus was in Turkey for regional meetings, without elaborating.
His visit comes less than two weeks after Turkish and US officials held their first operational planning meetings aimed at bringing an end to the Assad regime.