24/12/2012 15:45 GMT

Alistair Burt Condemns Syrian Airstrike On Bakery Which Killed 60 People

Britain today condemned an airstrike on a bakery in Syria which is believed to have killed more than 60 people queuing to buy bread.

Foreign Office minister Alistair Burt said that, if verified, the attack would be "the most recent in a long line of human rights violations and abuses" committed by the regime of President Bashar Assad.

syria bakery airstrike

Syrians flee from the scene of the airstrike which is thought to have been ordered by Bashar Assad

Those responsible should be held to account, said Burt, who said that the incident made clear "the urgent need for a political transition and end to the violence".

The attack in the town of Halfaya overshadowed the visit to Damascus of international peace envoy Lakhdar Brahimi, who today held talks with Assad.

There was little sign of progress in the efforts of the envoy for the United Nations and Arab League to broker an end to the conflict during the two-day visit, which was due to end on Monday.

Following the discussions at the Presidential palace, Brahimi told reporters: "The situation in Syria is still worrying and we hope that all the parties will go toward the solution that the Syrian people are hoping for and look forward to."

Syria's state news agency quoted Assad as saying his government supports "any effort in the interest of the Syrian people which preserves the homeland's sovereignty and independence."

Anti-regime activists reported that a government warplane targeted a bakery in the rebel-held town of Halfaya yesterday.

Amateur videos posted online showed many dead and wounded bodies lying in a street.

syria strike

A still from one of the videos from Shaam News Network showing bodies strewn on the street at the site of the strike

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights yesterday put the death toll from the incident at 60, and today said it had collected the names of 40 men and three women killed in Halfaya and had seen photos of the dead bodies of a further 15 unidentified men.

Syria's state news service blamed the attack on "an armed terrorist group", accusing rebels of filming the aftermath "to frame the Syrian army".

In a statement released in London, Burt said: "I am appalled by emerging reports of the brutal shelling and killing of civilians in Halfaya in Hama province yesterday. Opposition groups report that over 60 people were killed while queuing for bread with more believed to be buried in the rubble.

"If verified, this would be the most recent in a long line of human rights violations and abuses committed by the Syrian regime, which continues to wage a remorseless war against its own people.

"The attack highlights the urgent need for a political transition and end to the violence, and for those responsible for these appalling acts to be held to account."