UPDATE 2045 GMT: The White Helmets civil defense organization has raised the death toll to 35 from Wednesday’s bombings of the schools in Hass in Idlib Province.

UPDATE 2000 GMT: Opposition activists report that pro-Assad warplanes have struck another school, this time in the Damascus suburb of Douma.

The activists say at least seven people were killed, most of them children.

Pro-Assad forces have stepped up attacks on Douma, the base of the leading rebel faction Jaish al-Islam, as they took nearby territory in the East Ghouta area since May.

Hundreds of people have been killed by airstrikes on the town since it was besieged in 2012.

ORIGINAL ENTRY: Even as it suspended bombing of Aleppo city, Russia killed at least 26 people — 18 children and eight teachers — in airstrikes on schools in a village in neighboring Idlib Province in northwest Syria on Wednesday.

The White Helmets Civil Defense organization said a complex of five schools in Hass, teaching about 900 students, was hit at about 10:45 a.m. At least 80 people were injured. Doctors said the death toll is likely to rise, as more than 30 people are in critical condition.

“We do not have anyone who specializes in wounds this intense,” said a doctor in the nearby town of Maarat al-Num’an.

Videos showed the dead children. One image was of a dismembered arm clutching a schoolbag.

“The planes dropped eight parachute bombs, causing a massive explosion,” said Moti’a Jalal, one of the first responders.

Another first responder summarized, “There were dozens of dead bodies. Students, teachers and passersby from the street — it looked like a scene out of the apocalypse.”

Russia’s Ambassador to the United Nations Vitaly Churkin acknowledged the deaths, as he tried to hold a line against Moscow’s responsibility:

It’s horrible, I hope we were not involved. It’s the easiest thing for me to say no, but I’m a responsible person, so I need to see what my Ministry of Defence is going to say.

The development unsettled Churkin’s criticism of the UN head of humanitarian operations, Stephen O’Brien, for pointing out Russia’s ongoing bombing. The envoy had insisted that Moscow had not conducted military overflights of Aleppo Province since October: “If you have any information that there were any missile and bomb strikes, please provide this information.”

Syrian State media said “militants” were killed in Haas. They did not mention a school.

Anthony Lake, the head of the UN children’s agency UNICEF, said, “If deliberate, it is a war crime. This latest atrocity may be the deadliest attack on a school since the war began more than five years ago.”

Grieving over the bodies (Warning — Very Graphic Images):



Photo: Abu Musab al-Souri


Photo: Abed Kontar