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Syrian barrel bombs hit primary school near Turkish border, kill 20

Activists say twin bombs kill 20, most of them children, near Turkish border in area controlled by Kurdish forces
An image circulated by Syria's state-controlled news agency shows the aftermath of a deadly school bombing in October (AFP)

A barrel bomb has hit a primary school in north-eastern Syria killing at least 20 people, most of them children, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

Activists allege that helicopter pilots loyal to Syria’s embattled President Bashar al-Assad on Thursday afternoon dropped two barrel bombs on the school, which lies in a rural area in the north-eastern province on al-Hasaka.

There has been no claim of responsibility for the attack, and the Syrian government under Bashar al-Assad has not issued a statement regarding the deaths.

The death toll on Thursday was put at five by the Turkish Anadolu Agency. However, by Friday activists on the ground including Syrian journalist Hadi Abdullah had revised the number up to at least 20.

Dozens of people were also injured in the bombing, which hit a rural primary school in Ras al-Ayn, a mixed Kurdish-Arab town in the far north of the province, on Syria’s border with Turkey.

Activists on the ground told the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights of their surprise at the attack, which targeted an area currently held by the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG).

Though the YPG is in control of Hasaka province, Islamic State is active in the area. Assad's forces and YPG units have not engaged in major controntations in the last few years.

In a statement released on Friday, the opposition Syrian National Coalition decried the attack, the second of its kind apparently targeting schoolchildren within three days.

“We condemn this criminal act, and call on the international community to halt its policy of turning a blind eye to the crimes of [Assad’s] regime,” the coalition said.

Seven children died on Wednesday when two missiles slammed into their primary school, in the city of Hama in west-central Syria.

It is not yet known who was behind the earlier attack – both pro-government forces and the disparate groups of rebels fighting them are known to use missiles.

Anti-government forces, too, stand accused of targeting schoolchildren as Syria’s three-year long war grows ever more desperate.

There was international condemnation in October after some 48 people, including 41 children, died in a twin bomb attack in a government-controlled area of Homs.

The attack, which saw a car bomb detonation near a school followed up by a suicide car attack, hit an area populated by the Alawite minority, from which Assad hails.

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