* Activists say large crowd was queuing for bread
* Video shows dozens of dead bodies
* Envoy Brahimi in Damascus for new talks
* Government minister says 'forget' toppling Assad
By Erika Solomon
BEIRUT, Dec 23 Dozens of people were killed and
many more wounded in a Syrian government air strike that hit a
bakery where a crowd was queuing for bread on Sunday, activists
If confirmed, the attack on Halfaya in central Syria, which
was seized by rebels last week, would be one of the deadliest
air strikes of Syria's civil war.
Videos uploaded by activists showed dozens of bloodstained
corpses lying amid rubble and shrapnel. An adolescent boy with
both his feet blown off lay flailing in the middle of a road.
"When I got there, I could see piles of bodies all over the
ground. There were women and children," said Samer al-Hamawi, an
activist in the town. "There are also dozens of wounded people."
Rami Abdelrahman, of the Syrian Observatory for Human
Rights, said: "From looking at the videos, I expect the death
toll to be around or above 50, and not higher than 100. But for
now I am keeping my estimate at dozens killed."
Activists say more than 44,000 people have been killed in
the 21 months since protests erupted against President Bashar
al-Assad, inspired by the Arab Spring revolutions in Tunisia,
Egypt and elsewhere.
Amid the latest carnage, United Nations-backed crisis
mediator Lakhdar Brahimi arrived for more talks in Syria. He had
to drive from neighbouring Lebanon because fighting around
Damascus International Airport has effectively shut it down.
"TIME IS GETTING SHORT"
The uprising has grown into civil war, with death tolls
regularly topping 100 people a day as the army hits back at
rebels who have made a string of advances across the country,
including around the capital.
In defiant remarks, Syrian Information Minister Umran Ahid
al-Za'bi said rebels and their foreign allies should "forget"
trying to topple Assad.
He appeared to move away from the conciliatory tone of the
Syrian vice president, who said neither side could win the war
and called for a national unity government.
"These military efforts to try to topple the government, of
getting rid of the president, of occupying the capital ...
Forget about this," al-Za'bi told a news conference in Damascus.
"I have general advice to those political powers that reject
dialogue: time is getting short. Hurry and move on to working on
a political solution."
Brahimi, who replaced Kofi Annan after the former U.N. chief
failed to get Assad and world powers to agree on a way to end
the conflict, was expected to meet the president on Monday.
Western powers and some Arab countries have repeatedly
demanded that Assad step down.
Witness Hamawi said more than 1,000 people had been queuing
at the bakery. Shortages of fuel and flour have made bread
production erratic across the country, and people often wait
hours to buy loaves.
"We hadn't received flour in around three days so everyone
was going to the bakery today, and lots of them were women and
children," Hamawi said. "I still don't know yet if my relatives
are among the dead."
New York-based Human Rights Watch condemned army air strikes
on bakeries earlier this year, arguing that in some incidents
the Syrian military was not using enough precision to target
rebel sites, and in other instances it may have intentionally
In video from the attack site, women and children cried and
screamed as men rushed with motorbikes and vans to carry away
There was no independent media access to the scene, as the
government restricts press access in Syria.
In one video, the cameraman could be heard sobbing as he
filmed. "God is great, God is great. It was a war plane, a war
plane," he cried.
One man was seen stopping to pick up half a corpse lying in
the street, wrapping it up in his own jacket and carrying it
away. Residents were using their bare hands to dig for bodies
underneath blocks of concrete.
"Where are the Arabs, where is the world?" shouted one man.
"Look at all of these bodies!"