Government airstrikes on a northwestern Syrian village Monday killed at least 49 people and left survivors screaming in anguish as they pulled bodies from the rubble, according to activists and videos of the chaotic aftermath.
The Local Coordination Committees said two air raids on the village of Janoudiyeh in Idlib province killed 60 people and wounded others.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the air raid killed 49 people, including six children. It said the death toll could rise as some people are still missing.
Conflicting reports often emerge in the chaotic aftermath of such events.
The Observatory said the air raid struck a public square in Janoudiyeh, near the town of Jisr al-Shughour, which was captured by insurgents in April. It said the village has become home to many displaced people from nearby areas.
A video uploaded onto the Internet by activists showed a chaotic, smoke-filled scene, with people running past damaged cars, and bodies scattered on the street. Women screamed as men hurriedly covered bodies and pulled wounded people from the rubble before an ambulance arrived.
“My son was killed!” a man screamed. “We need cars!” another man shouted, as a third, covered in blood, sat on the debris.
Another amateur video showed dead bodies lined up on a floor. Activists asked people who recognize the bodies to inform local authorities. A body covered with a blanket had a paper that read “unknown woman.”
The videos appeared genuine and corresponded to other AP reporting.
Activists say thousands of people have been killed in government airstrikes since Syria’s conflict began in March 2011. The war has killed more than 220,000 people.
The latest air raids came shortly after Syria’s prime minister called on young men to fulfill their mandatory military service obligation, promising better pay for troops on the front lines as well as one hot meal a day.
President Bashar Assad’s army has faced a severe shortage of manpower as thousands of soldiers have deserted or dodged national service.
Analysts have said the military’s dwindling ranks are a key factor behind the advance of the Islamic State group as well as rebels and other insurgents in recent months.
“Today we must unite more than ever in backing our army and to fulfill the call of duty through mandatory military service,” Prime Minister Wael al-Halqi told parliament, adding that the army “is the real guarantor for the unity of our land.”
Syrian men with university degrees must spend 18 months in the military, usually after graduation, while those with a high school degree or less must serve for two years starting at age 18. Since the Syrian conflict began in March 2011, many have been forced to extend their service, according to residents and activists.
In March, insurgents seized the northern city of Idlib — the second provincial capital to fall out of the government’s hands — and last month the Islamic State group overran the historic central town of Palmyra. Rebels in southern Syria captured a border crossing with Jordan and a nearby strategic town earlier this year.
“Losing any city or any area in Syria does not mean that the war is lost,” al-Halqi said. He added that the army will strike back against militants, saying “wherever they step will be their graves.”
He said that on the orders of Assad himself, a plan is being drawn up that would pay an extra 10,000 Syrian pounds ($35) per month to soldiers on the front lines, starting next month.
He added that “the heroes standing on the front lines will receive a meal of hot food.” There have been complaints on social media that the troops’ diet mainly consists of bread, as well as boiled eggs or potatoes.