Activists: Over 400 killed in Aleppo bombings

In this Monday, Dec. 23, 2013 citizen journalism image provided by Aleppo Media Center AMC, which has been authenticated based on its contents and other AP reporting, Syrians inspect damages buildings following a Syrian government airstrike in Aleppo, Syria. Government forces widened a bombing campaign in rebel-held areas of northern Syria on Monday, striking the northern city of Aleppo and a town on the Turkish border in raids that left an estimated 45 people dead, activists said. (AP Photo/Aleppo Media Center AMC)

In this Monday, Dec. 23, 2013 citizen journalism image provided by Aleppo Media Center AMC, which has been authenticated based on its contents and other AP reporting, Syrians inspect damages buildings following a Syrian government airstrike in Aleppo, Syria. Government forces widened a bombing campaign in rebel-held areas of northern Syria on Monday, striking the northern city of Aleppo and a town on the Turkish border in raids that left an estimated 45 people dead, activists said. (AP Photo/Aleppo Media Center AMC)

BEIRUT — A Syrian human rights group says more than 400 people have been killed during a government bombardment of rebel-held areas of the northern city of Aleppo, and more than one-quarter of the victims are children.

Rami Abdurrahman of the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Wednesday they counted 401 people killed in 11 continuous days of government bombing of Syria’s largest city and its province, including 117 children.

Abdurrahman said the toll is one of the highest, and with the most civilian casualties, of any government assault in Syria’s three-year conflict.

The toll is so high because the government was hurling imprecisely aimed, explosive-laden barrels over residential areas, he said.

The Observatory bases its information on a network of activists on the ground.

Other rights groups have given much higher numbers of casualties.

The government has not commented on its use of the so-called barrel bombs, nor on why it began intensely targeting Aleppo. The attack comes weeks before an international conference is expected to bring together Syria’s government and opposition groups seeking to overturn the rule of President Bashar Assad.

Analysts say the attack may be an attempt to bully civilians to expel rebels from parts of the city they seized last July.

Also Wednesday, Syria’s state news agency said the oil ministry has signed a deal with Russian oil and gas company Soyuzneftegaz to explore in the Mediterranean Sea, in a boost to the war-ravaged country’s economic fortunes.

SANA’s report did not say where the deal was signed, though it said the exploration will take place off the Syrian coast.

Most of Syria’s oil and gas fields in the country’s east are under opposition control, and the country’s oil exports almost have stopped.

Russia is one of Assad’s strongest international backers.

Israel is already developing recent discoveries of massive offshore deposits in the region, and Lebanon has spoken of trying to develop offshore fields.

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