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White House condemns Syrian government for air raids killing hundreds

Salih Mahmud Leyla/ Anadolu Agency / Getty Images

People are rescued from buildings after Syrian army helicopters dropped 'barrel bombs' on Dec. 23, 2013 in Aleppo, Syria.

The White House said Monday the United States condemns the ongoing air raids by Syrian government forces and called on the nation to respect its obligations under international humanitarian law. These raids have claimed the lives of hundreds of civilians.  

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney spoke out in a statement against the recent air strikes by President Bashar Assad’s forces, which killed more than 300 people, many of them children, as the series of intensified attacks continued in rebel-controlled areas for more than a week.

That number does not include another attack on the northern city of Aleppo and the neighboring town of Azaz on the Turkish border on Monday, where government forces dropped bombs in air raids that left at least another 45 people dead.

Carney said the U.S. condemns the attacks, including the “indiscriminate use of SCUD missiles and barrel bombs in and around Aleppo over last week,” adding in the statement that the Syrian government had an obligation under international humanitarian law “to protect the civilian population.”

The “barrel bombs” are a deadly improvised weapon made of explosive-filled barrels that are rolled out of the back of helicopters, often landing in public areas and killing civilians instead of their intended military targets.

Non-governmental organization Human Rights Watch said in a report over the weekend that the Syrian government had conducted dozens of airstrikes in the last month, with Dec. 15 to Dec. 18 seeing the most intense attacks to date as bombs were dropped on at least 16 rebel-controlled neighborhoods.  

“Government forces have really been wreaking disaster on Aleppo in the last month, killing men, women, and children alike,” Ole Solvang, senior emergencies researcher at Human Rights Watch, said in the report. “The Syrian Air Force is either criminally incompetent, doesn’t care whether it kills scores of civilians – or deliberately targets civilian areas.”

Carney said the United States remained committed to helping end the bloodshed in Syria and that it was imperative for Syria to reach a “comprehensive and durable political solution” to the nation’s crisis.  

“The Syrian government must fulfill its November commitment to do more to facilitate the safe and unhindered delivery of humanitarian assistance, so that millions of Syrian men, women, and children have access to urgently needed services,” Carney said in the statement.

The Syrian civil war has killed more than 100,000 people, according to estimates from the United Nations, following the revolt against Assad that began more than two and a half years ago in March 2011. Millions more have been displaced in surrounding countries.

The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report. 

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