20 dead in Scud missile attack in Syria, activists say
BEIRUT -- At least 20 people were killed Friday by a blast in a northern Syrian town, according to opposition activists who said the attack was carried out using a Scud missile.
The missile landed in a populated neighborhood of Hretaan, injuring 50 people and destroying more than 30 homes, the activists said. Videos reportedly recorded afterward showed residents pulling out dozens of bodies from the rubble of flattened buildings.
There was no immediate response from Syrian officials to the charge, which could not be independently verified because of restrictions the government places on outside media.
The activists said the attack began soon after Friday prayers, with warplanes dropping bombs on the town, followed by the Scud missile.
“The residents of Hretaan have grown accustomed to the sound of shelling, but this time the situation was different,” activist Saif Islam Khitaab wrote via Skype.
Since mid-February, forces loyal to President Bashar Assad have allegedly launched dozens of Scud missiles on opposition-held towns and cities in northern Syria, possibly killing up to hundreds of people.
Meanwhile, in southern Syria, rebel fighters seized control of the strategic town of Dael in Dara province after more than a month of clashes with government troops, activists said Friday.
The rebels’ gain, if confirmed, would be the latest in the province, which has only recently seen opposition advances, even though it was where the uprising began more than two years ago.
Dael sits on the old highway connecting Damascus, the capital, and Dara, and controlling the town would help cut supply lines for government reinforcements, said Abu Rutaaj, an opposition activist in Dara.
Some in the opposition say the recent gains correspond with an increase in weapons shipments coming from nearby Jordan. Others contend that most of the weapons are spoils of war from government checkpoints and bases.
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