BEIRUT — The Syrian military bombed a gas station in the town of Ain Issa in northern Syria on Thursday, killing at least 50 people and wounding dozens more, the opposition Local Coordination Committees network reported.
Ain Issa is about 30 miles from a border crossing with Turkey that was overrun by rebel fighters Wednesday. The air raid Thursday could have been carried out by the Syrian military in retaliation for that defeat, activists said.
A correspondent with the opposition Shaam News Network (SNN), reporting from the nearby city of Raqqah, said the gas station was attacked because the rebel Free Syrian Army had taken control in the area.
“It’s a massacre,” Salar al-Kurdi, the SNN reporter, said in an interview with Dubai-based al-Aan TV. “Their only fault is that the Free Syrian Army dominated this region and liberated it.”
A video of the aftermath of the attack shows roughly half a dozen mangled and burning cars and trucks at the gas station, with thick black smoke spewing into the air. Another video shows debris and flesh scattered around the gas station along with craters that appear to have been caused by explosions.
A third video shows at least four charred corpses wrapped in blankets and sheets at the gas station as a man denounces Syria’s president, shouting, “Bashar al-Assad, the traitor who attacks civilians!”
Government security forces prevented anyone from entering or leaving a hospital in Raqqah where people wounded in the attack had been taken, perhaps a sign that they suspect some of the wounded are rebel fighters, the Local Coordination Committees (LCC) reported. Security was also ramped up in the city, with snipers positioning themselves on the roof of a local police headquarters, the group said.
Earlier in the day, a helicopter crashed on the outskirts of Damascus after clipping the tail of a passenger plane, state television reported. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based opposition group, asserted that the helicopter was shot down by rebel forces.
The Syrian military continued Thursday to heavily shell a number of Damascus suburbs, including Hajar al-Aswad, which was the target of an intense government assault Wednesday that left at least 30 people dead, according to the LCC.
Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi held talks Wednesday with Assad and told him that an attack on Syria would also be an attack on Iran and Hezbollah, the Lebanese Shiite political party and militant group. Iran and Hezbollah are Syria’s closest allies in the region.
The solution to the conflict can come only from “Syria and within the Syrian family,” Salehi said, according to the official Syrian Arab News Agency.
Ahmed Ramadan contributed to this report.