ANTAKYA, Turkey – A Syrian airstrike on a rebel-held town hit a bakery Sunday, killing dozens, possibly hundreds, of people who were waiting to buy bread, according to reports from anti-government activists inside Syria.
The bakery that came under attack was in the town of Halfaya in the central Syrian province of Hama. Different opposition groups offered widely varying estimates of the total number of casualties, running from under 100 to as high as 300, with many more wounded. More precise figures could not be verified.
Although not the first time that Syrians have died while trying to buy when bakeries were bombed, this airstrike potentially marks the highest death toll yet of any single incident in the 21-month conflict.
Rebels have declared Hama the next big battlefield in the civil war that has caused more than 40,000 deaths so far, and launched an offensive push into the area.
Graphic videos appearing on opposition sites on Facebook and YouTube showed the chaotic aftermath of the airstrike on the one-story building, where the roll-up metal door was wrenched off its hinges. Several charred bodies lay lifeless in the street, and fighters with Kalashnikov rifles slung over their shoulders pulled more bodies from concrete rubble.
Opposition activists said the bakery was the only one functioning in Halfaya, and a large crowd had gathered to buy the first fresh bread available for days.
Abu Farouk Al Hamawie, an activist reached on Skype, said about 400 people had been waiting in line, most of them women and children. He estimated the death toll approached 200.