April 14, 2013 - 16:48 AMT
Syrian airstrike leaves 18 dead

A Syrian government airstrike on a town in the country's north-west killed at least 18 people, shattering store fronts, setting cars ablaze and sending a giant plume of black and grey smoke over the horizon, Belfast Telegraph said.

President Bashar Assad's air force has been one of his biggest assets in the two-year-old civil war and he has used warplanes and helicopters to try to check rebel advances, although the regime also frequently hits civilian areas.

A Human Rights Watch report this week accused the Syrian government of committing war crimes by using indiscriminate and sometimes deliberate airstrikes against civilians, killing at least 4,300 people since the summer.

The air raid struck the town of Saraqeb in Idlib province, according to the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights activist group. The Observatory said four of the 18 people killed in the attack were members of the same family. Many others were wounded and the death toll was expected to rise, the Observatory said.