Syria airstrikes, shelling kill 100 during holiday

TEL RIFAT, Syria (AP) — Government forces pummeled the battered city of Aleppo with airstrikes and tanks and shelled parts of Damascus and southern Syria Monday, killing at least 100 people during a major Muslim holiday, rights groups and activists said.

The violence escalated dramatically after a one-day lull on Sunday, the start of the three-day Eid al-Fitr holiday which marks the end of the holy month of Ramadan. The renewed fighting showed President Bashar Assad’s regime is not letting up on efforts to quell the 17-month-old uprising out of respect for the occasion.

Since the holiday began on Sunday, an air of gloom has blanketed the nation and activists said there have been no signs of jubilation.

Adding to the despair, two main activist groups — The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and the Local Coordination Committees — said that 12 bodies shot execution style were found in the Qaboun district in the capital Damascus. Activist Omar al-Khani said the bodies, which included two children, were found on the side of a road with clear signs of torture on their bodies. Some were naked, others handcuffed.

The discovery of bodies in similar condition is not uncommon in Syria, particularly in the last few months as the uprising descended into a civil war with heavy sectarian undertones.

Most of the deaths Monday were a result of tank and mortar shelling as well as clashes in the Damascus suburbs of Daraya and Moadamiyeh, where some activists reported the regime used helicopter gunships. The Observatory and others said up to 31 people were killed.

Fighter jets on Monday bombed the town of Tel Rifat, 20 miles north of Aleppo. The town serves as the headquarters of one of the largest rebel groupings.

The bombing punched a crater six feet deep in the courtyard of a high school and vocational school for girls and leveled five nearby homes. An adjacent elementary and middle school for girls was also damaged, apparently by strafing from fighter jets.

No one was killed or injured in the airstrike, residents said, because the school and the homes were empty. Most of the town’s 35,000 people have fled due to frequent airstrikes and shelling. The same spots were bombed on August 8.

The U.N.’s new envoy to Syria acknowledged on Sunday that he had no concrete ideas to end the conflict and that his mission would be difficult without a unified position by the U.N. Security Council.

“The problem is not what I can do differently, it is how others are going to behave differently,” Lakhdar Brahimi told The Associated Press at his Paris home on Sunday. “If they spoke in one voice and were clearly supportive of what I will be doing on their behalf, that is what I need,” Brahimi said of what he seeks from the Security Council.

“Without a unified voice from the Security Council, I think it will be difficult,” the former Algerian foreign minister added.

Brahimi was named Friday to replace former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan as peace envoy to Syria.

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