Syrian government forces on Thursday bombarded the northern Syrian town of Maarat al-Noaman, which had been taken over by rebels last week who declared it "liberated" from the Assad regime.
Dozens of people who had returned to the town after rebels took control were killed in airstrikes conducted by forces under the control of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s government.
The New York Times described the scene as a "horror": "Men stumbled over rubble, carrying single bones nearly shorn of flesh and shredded body parts barely identifiable as human... A man in a baseball cap pointed out crumpled buildings that, he said, crushed women, children and elderly people sheltering there. An infant in a pink shirt lay motionless."
Middle East analysts have detected a potential shift in the Assad regime's approach to the ongoing civil war that has engulfed the country, with government forces now creating mass destruction in order to degrade the popular standing of the rebels.
Meanwhile international calls for a truce between the Assad regime and opposition forces intensified, with Turkey, Germany, and the Arab League on Friday urging both sides to suspend the civil war. The four-day truce would be timed to coincide with the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha, and would begin next Friday. Since March 2011 the fighting has claimed the lives of at least 33,000 people since March 2011.