Assad's forces killing with impunity in capital, Aleppo

Members of the Free Syrian Army take position to shoot at a Syrian Air Force plane in the Salaheddine neighborhood of central Aleppo.(Photo: AP)

August 21, 2012, Tuesday/ 16:54:00

Activists say at least 23 massacred in capital on Tuesday. Syrian government forces also pummeled the battered city of Aleppo with airstrikes and tanks and shelled parts of Damascus and southern Syria, killing at least 100 people during the Muslim Eid al-Fitr holiday.

Government forces stormed an opposition-held town outside Damascus on Tuesday after days of fierce fighting, killing at least 23 fighters according to an activist group and an opposition spokesman.

Syrian government forces also pummeled the battered city of Aleppo with airstrikes and tanks and shelled parts of Damascus and southern Syria on Monday, killing at least 100 people during the 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 al-Assad's regime is not letting up on its drive to quell the 17-month-old uprising out of respect for the occasion.

Damascus and its suburbs have witnessed a dramatic spike in fighting over the past month two months. And regime forces were further stretched when a major battle for control of the northern city of Aleppo erupted around the end of July. Before that, the fighting had been concentrated outside the big cities during the 17-month-old uprising.

Going gets tough for Assad

It has proved difficult for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's forces to put down the opposition challenge in the big cities, a sign that the regime's grip on power over the country is loosening.

The Local Coordination Committees activist group and an opposition spokesman said regime troops entered the opposition-held town of Moadamiyeh at dawn from four points. They searched homes looking for opposition fighters. The opposition spokesman asked to be identified by his first name only, Ahmed. He said three men in their late 20s and early 30s were shot dead execution style in the town soon after its fall in the hands of the regime forces.

The report could not be independently verified.

Moadamiyeh, west of the capital Damascus, has been under siege for more than two weeks. Its capture followed days of intense fighting and shelling by government troops.

In northern Syria, an activist who goes by the name Abu al-Hassan said warplanes and helicopters attacked a number of towns and villages north of Aleppo early on Tuesday, killing two civilians, including a young boy, and damaging homes. Several people were wounded.

After strafing a number of villages overnight, government fighter jets dropped two bombs on a residential part of the village of Marea, about 20 miles (30 kilometers) north of Aleppo, Abu al-Hassan said via Skype.

Amateur videos posted online showed a huge gray cloud of smoke rising over the village and a crater in a road that was strewn with rubble and two houses whose ceilings had collapsed. Residents were searching through the rubble for survivors and carrying the wounded to pickup trucks. A second video showed a number of people, including a small boy, with serious injuries.

The videos could not be independently verified.

Marea is a relatively quiet farming village in the Aleppo countryside that was not known for being a hub of opposition activity although one opposition group runs a prison in one of the village's schools.

“Since the strike, all I can hear outside are cars coming and going,” Abu al-Hassan said. “Actually, most of them are going.”

The UN'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 UN 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.

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