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Syrian government airstrikes hit rebels

A day after airstrikes killed at least 76 people, Syrian government aircraft pounded opposition areas in the northern city of Aleppo and near the southern border with Jordan on Monday, while the United Nations appealed for $6.5 billion to help the millions of Syrians uprooted by their homeland's civil war.

President Bashar Assad's air force is his greatest advantage in the country's civil war, and he has successfully exploited it to stem and even roll back rebel advances across the country. Human rights groups say Syrian military aircraft have carried out indiscriminate air raids that frequently hit civilian targets, such as hospitals, bakeries and residential areas.

The government has relied on its air power in particular in northern Syria, much of which fell to opposition fighters over the course of the past year. One of the major battlegrounds on that front is Aleppo, where Assad's forces and rebels have been bogged down in a bloody fight since rebels launched an assault on the city in mid-2012.

On Monday, a day after government helicopters dropped barrels packed with explosives on several Aleppo neighbourhoods, the Britain-based Syrian observatory for Human Rights on Monday said the death toll from those strikes had risen to at least 76, including 28 children.

The government frequently uses barrel bombs, which contain hundreds of kilograms (pounds) of explosives and cause massive damage on impact. Amateur videos posted online showed the aftermath of Sunday's airstrikes: buildings levelled by the explosions, rubble-strewn streets and smouldering wreckage of vehicles.

Another activist group, the Local Coordination Committees, said at least 12 neighbourhoods were hit and put the death toll at 83. It said that number is likely to rise because of the large number of wounded and the lack of sufficient medical supplies.

The main Western-backed opposition group, the Syrian National Coalition, condemned the strikes, and accused the government of "waging a barbaric campaign on the city of Aleppo through which it seeks revenge and the spread of chaos."

In a statement, the Coalition also said it has documented the names of 103 people who were killed and more than 350 who were wounded in Aleppo, in addition to 21 who died in the town of Dumeir in Damascus suburbs in air raids.

The U.N. food agency, meanwhile, said it is expanding its emergency operation to provide food to more than 7 million Syrians driven from their homes by the violence. Recent assessments by the World Food Program show that almost half the population inside Syria is experiencing food shortages and more than 6 million people urgently need food to survive.

In 2014, the WFP plans to feed 4.25 million internally displaced Syrians and nearly 3 million Syrian refugees in neighbouring countries, the agency said in a statement Monday.

The food agency also plans to increase the size of its food basket to provide more calories per person per day as other sources of food are increasingly scarce for the most vulnerable. To prevent malnutrition among children, WFP said it is concentrating its resources on providing nutritional food supplements to 240,000 children aged from six to 34 months.

The Canadian Press


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