BEIRUT – A Syrian warplane Saturday bombed a small town partially controlled by anti-regime fighters near the Turkish border, killing eight people and wounding at least 20, the latest escalation in the use of air power by President Bashar Assad’s government in the Arab nation’s civil war.

The afternoon 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 Saturday. The increased use of airstrikes by the regime is taking its toll on civilians, and, in the eyes of activists, is evidence of its insensitivity to civilian casualties as it battles for survival against the rebels.

The regime’s growing use of warplanes also 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 came hours after a government announcement said Syria welcomed the appointment of former Algerian diplomat Lakhdar Brahimi as the U.N.’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.