Air strikes hit camp in Syria

A boy carries his belongings at a site hit by what activists said was a barrel bomb dropped by forces loyal to Syria's President Bashar al-Assad in Aleppo's al-Fardous districtAir strikes on a camp housing Syrians uprooted by war killed at least 28 people near the Turkish border on Thursday, a monitoring group said, and fighting raged in parts of northern Syria despite a deal to cease hostilities in the city of Aleppo.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the dead included women and children and the death toll from the air strikes, which hit a camp for internally displaced people near the town of Sarmada, was likely to rise.

Footage shared on social media showed rescue workers putting out fires which still burned among charred tent frames, pitched in a muddy field. White smoke billowed from smoldering ashes, and a burned and bloodied torso could be seen in the footage.

“There were two aerial strikes that hit this makeshift camp for refugees who have taken refuge from fighting in southern Aleppo and Palmyra,” said Abu Ibrahim al-Sarmadi, an activist from the nearby town of Atmeh who spoke to people near the camp.

Nidal Abdul Qader, an opposition civilian aid official who lives about 1 km (half a mile) from the camp, said around 50 tents and a school had burned down.

United Nations aid chief Stephen O’Brien said he was horrified and sickened by what had happened and called for an investigation.

“If this obscene attack is found to be a deliberate targeting of a civilian structure, it could amount to a war crime,” O’Brien said in a statement. “I call for an immediate, impartial and independent investigation into this deadly incident.”

The White House said the victims were innocent civilians who had fled their homes to escape violence.

Sarmada lies about 30 km (20 miles) west of Aleppo, where a cessation of hostilities brokered by Russia and the United States had brought a measure of relief on Thursday.

But fighting continued nearby and President Bashar al-Assad said in a telegram to Russian President Vladimir Putin his army would not accept anything less than “attaining final victory” and “crushing the aggression” by rebels in Aleppo, according to state media.

“We call on Russia to urgently address this totally unacceptable statement,” U.S. State Department spokesman Mark Toner told a briefing. “It’s clearly an effort by Assad to push his agenda, but it is incumbent on Russia to assert influence on that regime to maintain the cessation of hostilities.”

Toner sought to address confusion over the timeline for the cessation of hostilities, with Syrian state media saying the army would abide by a “regime of calm” in Aleppo for 48 hours and the State Department emphasizing it was open-ended.

Russia blocked a British-drafted U.N. Security Council statement, which would have condemned the surge in violence in Aleppo and attacks against civilians. (Courtesy Reuters)

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