AZAZ, Syria — The Syrian fighter jets swooped in low over the rebel-held town of Azaz Wednesday in two bombing runs that sent panicked civilians fleeing for cover and reduced homes to rubble. Associated Press reporters who witnessed the air raids near the Turkish border saw at least eight dead including a baby and dozens wounded, most of them women and children.
One man was pulled bloodied but alive from the wreckage of destroyed homes.
"God is great! God is great!" yelled his rescuers as he emerged. Then they laid him in a blanket and carried him to a pickup truck.
Nearby, a woman sat on the pile of bricks that once was her home, cradling a dead baby. Two other bodies lay next to her, covered in blankets.
"I saw the plane come down and some missiles fall and then there was smoke all over," said Mohammed Fuad, 18, who lives near the site of the attacks. "When it cleared, we heard screaming and saw rubble all over the streets."
The attack came on the same day the U.N. released a report accusing Syrian President Bashar Assad's forces and their militia backers of war crimes in the killings of more than 100 civilians – nearly half children – in the village of Houla in May. It said the civil war was moving in a "brutal" direction on both sides.
About a dozen rebel fighters flocked to the scene, none armed with more than a Kalashnikov assault rifle. At one point, some men started screaming, sparking a panic that the jets were returning and sending the crowd dashing for cover. In the end, it was a false alarm, and all came back to look for more bodies.
The first fighter jet appeared in the sky late in the day and dropped bombs on the town, sending up a huge cloud of smoke. Terrified families tore through the streets. Soon after, a second jet swooped over, dropping another charge that shook downtown.
The blast damaged buildings far beyond the bombing sites. It sheared the front wall off one home, exposing a panicked man and his wife rummaging through their kitchen, where jars of olives and pickles still sat in the cupboards.
Some 15 simple, concrete homes were reduced to a huge expanse of rubble. Scores of men ran to the area, digging for people buried underneath the debris. One group brought a generator and an electrical saw to cut through rebar. A short time later, they found a man, his clothes torn and limbs covered with blood.
Most of the wounded were quickly ferried by cars to the Turkish border, 4 miles north.
The Assad regime is increasingly relying on attack helicopters and fighter jets to target rebels in the countryside around Aleppo, Syria's largest city where rebels and regime forces have been battling for control for several weeks. The regime has been pushed out of towns and villages in a large swath of territory between Aleppo and the Turkish border.
Wednesday's bombings did not appear to hit specific rebel targets, though one of the sites was about one kilometer (mile) away from the local rebels' political and media offices.
Azaz, some 48 kilometers (30 miles) north of Aleppo, considers itself "liberated" since rebel forces pushed the army out in a series of gritty street battles last month. Its largest rebel group, the Northern Storm brigade, runs a prison and the nearby border crossing with Turkey.
Although Syria's rebels have grown adept at ambushing regime troops and tanks, they are largely helpless against the government's air power.
BEFORE YOU GO
09/09/2012 12:25 PM EDT
Syria Blasts Aleppo By Air
09/05/2012 7:50 AM EDT
Syrian City In Flames
08/25/2012 1:45 PM EDT
Lebanese Pilgrim Freed
Hussein Ali Omar, 60, one of 11 Lebanese Shiite pilgrims that Syrian rebels have been holding for three months in Syria, hugs his mother, right, upon arrival at his house in the southern suburb of Beirut, Lebanon, 2012. Syrian rebels freed Omar on Saturday in a move aimed at easing cross-border tensions after a wave of abductions of Syrian citizens in Lebanon. The Shiite pilgrims were abducted May 22 after crossing into Syria from Turkey on their way to Lebanon. (AP Photo/Hussein Malla)
08/24/2012 12:22 PM EDT
This image made from video and released by Shaam News Network and accessed Thursday, Aug. 23, 2012, purports to show the funeral of children in Daraya, near Damascus, Syria. Syrian troops backed by tanks and helicopters broke into a Damascus suburb on Thursday following two days of shelling and intense clashes as part of a widening offensive by President Bashar Assad's forces to seize control of parts of the capital and surrounding areas from rebel fighters, activists said. At least 15 people were killed in the offensive on Daraya, only a few miles (kilometers) southwest of Damascus. (AP Photo/Shaam News Network SNN via AP video)
08/24/2012 11:05 AM EDT
Lebanon Sees Heaviest Clashes In Months
Clashes between Assad supporters and opponents of the Syrian regime killed two people in Lebanon on Friday, the Associated Press reports. 17 people were injured.
The AP gives more context:
Syria was in virtual control of its smaller neighbor for many years, posting tens of thousands of troops in Lebanon, before withdrawing under pressure in 2005. Even without soldiers on the ground, Syria remains influential, and its civil war has stirred longstanding tensions that have lain under Lebanon's surface.
Read more on HuffPost World.
08/24/2012 11:02 AM EDT
A Sunni gunman fires a gun during clashes that erupted between pro and anti-Syrian regime gunmen in the northern port city of Tripoli, Lebanon, Friday, Aug. 24, 2012. The latest round of fighting first erupted on Monday in northern Lebanon and at least 15 have been killed in Tripoli this week and more than 100 have been wounded in fighting that is a spillover from Syria's civil war. (AP Photo/Hussein Malla)
08/24/2012 11:00 AM EDT
Refugee Numbers Soar
@ KenRoth :
UN reports 200,000 #Syria refugees, 30,000 in past week alone. Many more internally displaced not counted. http://t.co/BaM6u59j
08/23/2012 2:00 PM EDT
Syrian boy Musataf Alhafiz, 11, who fled his home with his family due to fighting between the Syrian army and the rebels, carries his brother Saif, 9 months, while he and others take refuge at the Bab Al-Salameh border crossing, in hopes of entering one of the refugee camps in Turkey, near the Syrian town of Azaz, Thursday, Aug. 23, 2012. Thousands of Syrians who have been displaced by the country's civil war are struggling to find safe shelter while shelling and airstrikes by government forces continue. (AP Photo/Muhammed Muheisen)
08/23/2012 12:09 PM EDT
Heaviest Bombardment This Month
Helicopter gunships shelled Damascus on Wednesday as Syrian security forces intensified their assault on the capital. Activists report that at least 47 people were killed.
"The whole of Damascus is shaking with the sound of shelling," a woman in the neighborhood of Kfar Souseh told Reuters.
Read more on HuffPost World.