World

Syrian activists say at least 20 killed in government airstrikes

  • U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and his wife Teresa Heinz Kerry board a second plane after their original aircraft had mechanical problems on April 6, 2013, at Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland. Kerry heads to the Middle East, his third trip to the region in two weeks, in a fresh bid to unlock long-stalled Israeli-Palestinian peace talks. And in Istanbul, the first leg of a six-nation trip that goes on to Europe and East Asia, Kerry will coordinate with Turkey's Prime Minister and other Turkish officials on efforts to halt the violence in neighboring Syria's civil war.  (AP Photo/Paul J. Richards, Pool)

    U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and his wife Teresa Heinz Kerry board a second plane after their original aircraft had mechanical problems on April 6, 2013, at Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland. Kerry heads to the Middle East, his third trip to the region in two weeks, in a fresh bid to unlock long-stalled Israeli-Palestinian peace talks. And in Istanbul, the first leg of a six-nation trip that goes on to Europe and East Asia, Kerry will coordinate with Turkey's Prime Minister and other Turkish officials on efforts to halt the violence in neighboring Syria's civil war. (AP Photo/Paul J. Richards, Pool)  (The Associated Press)

  • Syrians who now live in Greece, display photos of injured people in Syria, during a  protest against Syrian President Bashar Assad , in front of the Greek Parliament, in Athens, Saturday April 6, 2013. Around 200 Syrians took part in the protest.  (AP Photo/Dimitri Messinis)

    Syrians who now live in Greece, display photos of injured people in Syria, during a protest against Syrian President Bashar Assad , in front of the Greek Parliament, in Athens, Saturday April 6, 2013. Around 200 Syrians took part in the protest. (AP Photo/Dimitri Messinis)  (The Associated Press)

  • FILE - In this Sunday, Jan. 6, 2013 file photo released by the Syrian official news agency SANA, Syrian President Bashar Assad gestures speaks at the Opera House in central Damascus, Syria. Assad has warned that the fall of his regime or the  breakup of Syria will unleash a wave of instability that will shake the Middle East for years to come. Assad told the Turkish TV station Ulusal Kanal in an interview aired Friday, April 5, 2013 that "we are surrounded by countries that help terrorists and allow them to enter Syria." (AP Photo/SANA, File)

    FILE - In this Sunday, Jan. 6, 2013 file photo released by the Syrian official news agency SANA, Syrian President Bashar Assad gestures speaks at the Opera House in central Damascus, Syria. Assad has warned that the fall of his regime or the breakup of Syria will unleash a wave of instability that will shake the Middle East for years to come. Assad told the Turkish TV station Ulusal Kanal in an interview aired Friday, April 5, 2013 that "we are surrounded by countries that help terrorists and allow them to enter Syria." (AP Photo/SANA, File)  (The Associated Press)

Syrian government airstrikes killed at least 20 people as the army pressed ahead Sunday with its campaign to crush the rebellion against President Bashar Assad, activists said.

State television said the primary goal of the airstrikes was to "recapture areas taken by the terrorists," a reference to the rebel Free Syrian Army, who took up arms against Assad after security forces launched a bloody crackdown on protesters two years ago.

The rebels control large swaths of northern Syria, and captured their first provincial capital — the city of Raqqa — last month. They have also been making gains in recent weeks in the south, seizing military bases and towns in the strategically important region between Damascus and the border with Jordan, about 100 miles from the capital Damascus.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says Sunday's airstrikes targeted the northern cities of Aleppo, Homs, Hama, Idlib, the western Mediterranean city of Latakia, the eastern province of Deir el-Zour and the suburbs of Damascus.

To the south in Daraa, a man was shot dead by an army sniper, the Observatory said. It added that there was little rebel advancement in the province where opposition forces seized large swathes of land over the past two weeks.

In the outskirts of Damascus, the army pursued rebels in Adra district and raided their base in the neighborhood of Qarra, the state news agency SANA reported.

It also said the army "demolished two dens with all terrorists and ammunition inside them in al-Khalidiya district in the central province of Homs, killing several terrorists." It provided no other details.

In a rare move, the government urged rebels to surrender their arms, warning in cell phone text messages that the army is "coming to get you."