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      Syria: 12 Children Killed in Airstrikes

      Air strikes by Syrian regime warplanes killed at least 12 children in two incidents on Sunday, says the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
      By Elad Benari
      First Publish: 4/15/2013, 5:42 AM

      Syrian and Kurdish rebel fighters walk in the majority-Kurdish Sheikh Maqsud district of Aleppo
      Syrian and Kurdish rebel fighters walk in the majority-Kurdish Sheikh Maqsud district of Aleppo
      AFP photo

      Air strikes by Syrian regime warplanes killed at least 12 children in two incidents on Sunday, one targeting a Kurdish village in northeast Syria and the other a district of Damascus, a watchdog said, according to AFP.

      "Sixteen people were martyred after a warplane targeted the village of Haddad, which is majority Kurdish... including at least three children and two women," the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights told AFP.

      Video footage uploaded to YouTube showed the aftermath of the attack in the province of Hasakeh, the news agency reported, with several women carrying children from a damaged home, outside which two bodies can be seen, a pool of blood next to the head of one.

      In northern Syria, the Kurdish population has largely observed a careful compromise with regime and rebel forces, fighting alongside neither, in return for security and semi-autonomy over majority Kurdish areas.

      There have been reports in recent weeks, however, of Kurdish forces fighting alongside rebels in certain areas, and Observatory director Rami Abdel Rahman told AFP that rebels had used an area some distance from the site of the raid as a gathering point.

      In the second incident, at least nine more children were killed in an air strike on the Qabun neighborhood of northeastern Damascus, said the Britain-based Observatory.

      In the south, activists accused the regime of destroying the minaret of the historic Omari mosque in Daraa, the so-called cradle of the uprising against President Bashar Al-Assad.

      In amateur video footage, the mosque can be seen at the end of a street, its towering minaret toppling over after apparent shelling and crumbling into rubble and dust.

      But state news agency SANA quoted a local official in Daraa as pinning blame for the minaret's destruction on the Islamist rebel group Al-Nusra Front.

      "Al-Nusra terrorists in Daraa targeted the minaret," the unnamed official said, adding that they had obtained a fatwa, or religious edict, authorizing attacks on places of worship "if necessary."

      "All the signs prove that the terrorists blew up the minaret," he said.

      Earlier this week, Al-Nusra's chief pledged allegiance to Al-Qaeda, a day after Al-Qaeda in Iraq announced its affiliation with the Syrian jihadist group, prompting concern among some rebel fighters and opposition members.

      On Sunday, the key Syrian National Coalition grouping warned that Al-Nusra Front's pledge of fealty to Al-Qaeda would serve the Assad regime.

      "The Syrian Coalition is deeply concerned about recent statements regarding the affiliations and ideologies of particular factions of the rebel forces," the group said, according to AFP.

      "Such initiatives only serve the goals of the Assad regime and harm the progress of the revolution," it added, calling on Al-Nusra "to stay within the ranks of nationalistic Syrians."

      Al-Nusra is one of 13 factions in the radical Islamist rebel council that announced its secession from the main opposition force and declared its own Islamic state in Aleppo.