A Syrian warplane has bombed a small town partially controlled by anti-regime fighters near the Turkish border, killing eight people and wounding at least 20.

The airstrike, reported by activists in the area as well as the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, was one of at least two that took place on Saturday.

President Bashar al-Assad’s regime’s growing use of warplanes comes at a time when western powers are looking into suggestions for militarily enforcing a no-fly zone in northern Syria. Russia rejects the idea.

The airstrike on the town of Manbej in the Jarablous area came hours after a government announcement said Syria welcomed the appointment of former Algerian diplomat Lakhdar Brahimi as the UN’s new point-man in efforts to halt the civil war.

The announcement was made by the office of Vice President Farouk al-Sharaa, which also denied Arab media reports that al-Sharaa had defected to the opposition. Al-Sharaa “did not think, at any moment, of leaving the country,” the statement said.

The regime has suffered a string of prominent defections in recent months, though Assad’s inner circle and military have largely kept their cohesive stance behind him.

Brahimi, the new UN envoy, takes over from former Secretary-General Kofi Annan who is stepping down on August 31 after his attempts to broker a ceasefire failed. His appointment comes as UN observers have begun leaving Syria, with their mission officially over by midnight on Sunday.

In Syria, activists and the London Observatory could not say what was the intended target of the lone air force MiG-25 when it rocketed Manbej, which has a population of some 40,000. The wounded were treated in field hospitals in the town and in clinics across the border in Turkey.

A second airstrike earlier in the day targeted the northern border town of Azaz, where more than 40 people were killed and at least 100 wounded in an airstrike earlier this week, according to international watchdog Human Rights Watch.

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