More than 60 people were killed in a regime air strike on a bakery in a rebel-held town on Sunday, monitors said, as peace envoy Lakhdar Brahimi launched a new bid to resolve Syria's brutal 21-month conflict.
In one of the deadliest incidents of the conflict, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the strike hit a bakery in Halfaya in the central province of Hama, killing more than 60 people and wounding at least 50.
Many of the wounded were in critical condition, the monitoring group said, adding that the death toll was likely to rise.
"In Halfaya, regime forces bombarded a bakery and committed a massacre that killed dozens of people, including women and children, and wounded many others," said the Local Coordination Committees, a grassroots network of activists.
"A MiG (jet) has attacked! Look at (President Bashar al-) Assad's weapons. Look, world, look at the Halfaya massacre," says an unidentified cameraman shooting an amateur video distributed by the Observatory.
A handout picture released by the Syrian opposition's Shaam News Network shows Syrian opposition fighters celebrating after liberating the "hospital checkpoint" following clashes with government forces in the town of Halfaya on December 18, 2012. More than 60 civilians were killed on Sunday in a strike by Syrian regime warplanes on people queueing outside a bakery in Halfaya, a watchdog said.
The footage showed a bombed one-storey block and a crater in the road.
Bloodied bodies lay on the road, while others could be seen in the rubble. Men carried victims out on their backs, among them at least one woman, the video showed.
On Monday, rebels launched an all-out assault on army positions across Hama, which is home to strong anti-regime sentiment.
During the summer, rights groups accused government forces of committing war crimes by dropping bombs and using artillery on or near several bakeries in the northern province of Aleppo.
Another of the bloodiest attacks in the Syrian conflict was on a bread line in the Qadi Askar district of Aleppo city on August 16 that left 60 people dead, according to local hospital records.
International envoy Brahimi, meanwhile, travelled to Damascus overland from neighbouring Lebanon on a previously unannounced visit, officials said.
The UN-Arab League envoy last visited on October 19, but since then there has been fighting between government forces and rebels on the road to Damascus airport.
During his October visit he met President Bashar al-Assad and other officials to clinch a temporary ceasefire for the Muslim feast of Eid al-Adha. Despite pledges, the truce did not hold.
At least 44,000 people have been killed in violence across Syria since the outbreak of the anti-regime revolt in March 2011, according to the Britain-based Syrian Observatory.
Map of Syria locating a regime air raid on the rebel-held town of Halfaya. More than 60 people were killed in a regime air strike on a bakery in a rebel-held town on Sunday, monitors said, as peace envoy Lakhdar Brahimi launched a new bid to resolve Syria's brutal 21-month conflict.
Shortly before Sunday's air strike, Information Minister Omran al-Zohbi reiterated calls for national dialogue.
"Only Syrians will participate in national dialogue," the minister told reporters. "We tell those who do not want dialogue to engage in talks, because time is running out."
He also played down Vice President Faruq al-Sharaa's assessment that the conflict could not be resolved by military means.
"It is one opinion among 23 million opinions in Syria, which is a state led by institutions and leaders who will give the final opinion," said Zohbi of Syria's population.
Sharaa said in a Lebanese newspaper interview published last Monday that a clear winner was unlikely to emerge in Syria's war and he preferred a negotiated solution, in remarks at odds with Assad.
Apart from those killed in Halfaya, at least 49 others were killed on Sunday in violence across Syria, said the Observatory.
Other air strikes included a raid in Aleppo province. "At least 13 people were killed in an air raid on the town of Sfeira," said the group, which relies on a network of doctors, activists and lawyers for its information.
Warplanes also hit the town of Saqba in Damascus province, just north of the road linking the capital to the international airport, the Observatory added.