Syrian forces killed as many as 143 people on Sunday across the country, activists at the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
The Free Syrian Army, meanwhile, was able to control an artillery battalion in al-Zahraa region in Aleppo overnight, following intensive clashes with government troops, according to the Syrian Media Center.
A helicopter strike on Sunday on the town of Kafr Aweid in the northwest Syrian province of Idlib killed at least five children and one woman, said the Observatory.
Amateur video posted on YouTube by activists showed horrific images of the children’s corpses and of a man holding the inanimate body of a little girl in a light blue dress who had been decapitated by the force of the strike.
“Allahu akbar! (God is greatest)” mourners were heard to cry in the footage. “These are the reforms of (President) Bashar al-Assad!”
“Only God can help us! The whole of humanity has failed us! Nobody has helped us!” cried another, according to AFP.
According to Observatory director Rami Abdul Rahman, the attack came a day after five other children were killed in Saraqeb, also in Idlib province.
“This is the gift of the regime to the children of Syria on their first day back at school,” he told AFP by telephone.
“The shelling of Kafr Aweid, like all the regime’s massacres, is taking place while the whole world just watches.”
An activist based near Kafr Aweid and who travelled to the town to document the violence told AFP via the Internet that the army’s onslaught destroyed at least 20 houses.
“Many more people would have been killed had it not been for the fact that most of Kafr Aweid’s residents have already fled the town,” said the activist who identified himself as Raed.
“Now, families in several towns nearby are getting ready to flee,” he added.
The state news agency said more than 5 million students would return to the country’s 22,000 schools, excluding an unspecified number damaged by war or housing refugees.
Since a pro-democracy movement started in March 2011, Assad’s administration has played it down to give an impression of order, even after the killing of thousands of peaceful protesters turned the uprising into an armed revolt.
Even now that there is heavy fighting in every province, Assad appears determined to continue ruling as in peacetime.
More than 27,000 people have been killed since the uprising against Assad’s rule erupted in March last year, the Britain-based Observatory estimates. The United Nations puts the toll at 20,000.
The United Nations has said the ministry of education reported that nearly 10 percent of schools across the country had been damaged or destroyed and 800 sheltered families uprooted by fighting, although the U.N. said the government had started moving some out to make way for pupils, according to Reuters.
International mediator Lakhdar Brahimi left Damascus after talks with Assad and government officials but the veteran Algerian diplomat had said that the mission was “nearly impossible.”