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Syrian planes bomb olive press; many killed

By The Associated Press

This article was originally published November 27, 2012 at 7:42 a.m. Updated November 27, 2012 at 8:08 a.m.

— Syrian warplanes bombed an olive press factory in the country’s north Tuesday, killing and wounding dozens of people, including farmers who were waiting to convert their olives to oil, activists said.

Two activist groups — the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and the Local Coordination Committees — say the factory is west of the city of Idlib. The Local Coordination Committees said at least 20 people were killed and many others wounded in the raid, while the Observatory said “tens were killed or wounded.”

Both groups depend on a network of activists on the ground around the country.

President Bashar Assad’s regime has been launching intense air raids on rebels in recent months, mostly in Idlib, the nearby province of Aleppo, Deir el-Zour to the east and suburbs of the capital Damascus.

The most recent air raids have killed hundreds of people, including eight children Sunday in the village of Deir al-Asafir near the capital, Damascus.

“It is a sign of despair,” said Hilal Khashan, a political science professor at the American University of Beirut. He added that the regime forces are overstretched, and the air force is being used in areas that the army cannot easily reach.

“This is mass punishment. The regime is striking at civilian areas to make the people pay a price for not standing against advancing opposition forces,” Khashan said. “The regime is desperate and wants to make the price of its opponents’ victory costly.”

Olive oil is a main staple in Syria. Tens of thousands of tons are produced annually.

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