Missiles in Syria kill 50 as schools, hospitals hit; Turkey accuses Russia

admin   •   February 16, 2016   •   1113

People gather near what is said to be a hospital damaged by missile attacks in Azaz, Aleppo, Syria, February 15, 2016 in this still image taken from a video on a social media website. REUTERS/Social Media Website via Reuters TV

People gather near what is said to be a hospital damaged by missile attacks in Azaz, Aleppo, Syria, February 15, 2016 in this still image taken from a video on a social media website. REUTERS/Social Media Website via Reuters TV

Turkey on Monday accused Russia of an “obvious war crime” after missile attacks in northern Syria killed scores of people, and warned Kurdish militia fighters there they would face the “harshest reaction” if they tried to capture a town near the Turkish border.

An offensive supported by Russian bombing and Iranian-backed Shi’ite militias has brought the Syrian army to within 25 km (15 miles) of Turkey’s frontier. The Kurdish YPG militia – which Turkey regards as a hostile insurgent force – has exploited the situation, seizing ground from Syrian rebels to extend its presence along the border.

Almost 50 civilians were killed when missiles hit at least five medical facilities and two schools in rebel-held areas of Syria on Monday, according to the United Nations, which called the attacks a blatant violation of international law.

At least 14 were killed in the northern town of Azaz, the last rebel stronghold before the border with Turkey, when missiles hit a children’s hospital and a school sheltering refugees, a medic and two residents said. Missiles also hit a hospital in the town of Marat Numan in the province of Idlib, south of Aleppo.

Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said a Russian missile had hit the buildings and that many civilians including children had been killed. Turkey’s foreign ministry accused Russia of carrying out an “obvious war crime.”

But Russian Health Minister Veronika Skvortsova said Russian air strikes were targeting Islamic State infrastructure and she had no reason to believe that Russian planes had bombed civilian sites in Idlib.

“We are confident that (there is) no way could it be done by our defense forces. This contradicts our ideology,” she said in Geneva. Syria’s ambassador to Russia said U.S. war planes were responsible.

White House national security adviser Susan Rice on Monday condemned in the “strongest terms” the intensified bombing of northern Syria, adding that it ran counter to commitments to reduce hostilities made by major powers last week in Munich.

The Syrian civil war, reshaped by Russia’s intervention last September, has gone into an even higher gear since the United Nations sought to revive peace talks. The talks in Geneva were suspended earlier this month before they got off the ground.

World powers agreed in Munich on Friday to a cessation of hostilities in Syria to allow humanitarian aid to be delivered, but the deal does not take effect until the end of this week and was not signed by any warring parties.

Turkey shelled YPG positions for a third straight day on Monday to try to stop its fighters seizing Azaz, just 8 km from the border. Ankara fears the Kurdish militia, backed by Russia, is trying to secure the last stretch of around 100 km along the Syrian border not already under its control.

“We will not allow Azaz to fall,” Davutoglu told reporters on his plane on the way to Ukraine. “If they approach again they will see the harshest reaction,” he said.

The standoff has increased the risk of direct confrontation between Russia and NATO member Turkey.

U.N ENVOY IN DAMASCUS

U.N. Syria envoy Staffan de Mistura made a surprise visit to Damascus on Monday and will hold talks with Syria’s foreign minister on Tuesday, a Syrian government official told Reuters. A senior UN official later confirmed that de Mistura had arrived in Syria for an unscheduled visit to “follow up on commitments made in Munich.”

But in a further clouding of the Munich deal, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad said on Monday that any ceasefire did not mean each side had to stop using weapons, and that nobody was capable of securing the conditions for one within a week.

At a news conference in Kiev, Turkey’s prime minister doubted Russia’s commitment to any deal to cease hostilities, pointing to comments from Moscow that it would continue its air strikes regardless.

“They want to have just two options in front of the international community: Daesh or Assad,” Davutoglu said, using an Arabic acronym for Islamic State.

Turkey is enraged by the expansion of Kurdish influence in northern Syria, fearing it will encourage separatist ambitions among its own restive Kurds. Ankara considers the YPG a terrorist group.

Davutoglu said Turkey would make the Menagh air base north of the city of Aleppo “unusable” if the YPG, which seized it over the weekend from Syrian insurgents, did not withdraw.

Turkish Defense Minister Ismet Yilmaz said Ankara was not considering sending troops to Syria, according to the state-run Anadolu Agency.

Syria’s rebels, some backed by the United States, Turkey and their allies, say the YPG is fighting with the Syrian military and its backers – including Russia – against them in the five-year-old civil war. The YPG denies this.

South of Azaz, the Kurdish-backed Syria Democratic Forces (SDF) alliance, of which the YPG is a member, took around 70 percent of the town of Tal Rifaat, according to the Syrian Observatory, which monitors the war.

HOSPITALS HIT

Tens of thousands have fled to Azaz from towns and villages where there is heavy fighting between the Syrian army and militias.

“We have been moving scores of screaming children from the hospital,” said medic Juma Rahal, following the missile strikes. At least two children were killed and ambulances ferried scores of injured people to Turkey for treatment, he said.

French charity Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) said seven people were killed and at least eight staff were missing after missiles hit a hospital in the province of Idlib, west of Aleppo, in a separate incident.

“The author of the strike is clearly … either the government or Russia,” MSF president Mego Terzian said.

(Additional reporting by Lisa Barrington in Beirut, Humeyra Pamuk in Istanbul, Tulay Karadeniz, Orhan Coskun and Ece Toksabay in Ankara, Stephanie Nebehay in Geneva, Jack Stubbs in Moscow; writing by Nick Tattersall and G Crosse; editing by David Dolan, Giles Elgood and Pravin Char)

TAGS   

Bombs kill nearly 150 in Syrian government-held cities: monitor

admin   •   May 24, 2016

Monday, May 23, 2016 A general view shows a damaged bus station after explosions hit it in the Syrian city of Jableh May 23, 2016. REUTERS/Omar Sanadiki

Monday, May 23, 2016
A general view shows a damaged bus station after explosions hit it in the Syrian city of Jableh May 23, 2016. REUTERS/Omar Sanadiki

Bombs killed nearly 150 people and wounded at least 200 in Jableh and Tartous on Syria’s Mediterranean coast on Monday in the government-controlled territory that hosts Russian military bases, monitors and state media said.

Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attacks in the cities that have up to now escaped the worst of the violence in the five-year-old conflict, saying it was targeting members of President Bashar al-Assad’s Alawite minority.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said 148 people were killed in attacks by at least five suicide bombers and two devices planted in cars. State media had said 78 people had been killed in what is Assad’s coastal heartland.

The attacks were the first of their kind in Tartous, capital of Tartous province and home to a Russian naval facility, and in Jableh in Latakia province, near a Russian-operated air base.

The Kremlin said the blasts underscored the need to press ahead with peace talks after the collapse of a Feb. 27 ceasefire in April due to intensifying violence in a war that has killed at least 250,000 people.

“This demonstrates yet again just how fragile the situation in Syria is. And this one more time underscores the need for new urgent steps to continue the negotiating process,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told journalists.

Russian President Vladimir Putin reiterated his readiness to fight with the Syrian government against “the terrorist threat” and sent his condolences to Assad, the Kremlin said.

The Syrian Foreign Ministry sent a letter to the United Nations, state television reported, saying the blasts were a “dangerous escalation by the hostile and extremist regimes in Riyadh, Ankara and Doha”, referring to support given to the rebels by Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Qatar.

U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon condemned the attacks.

“BLOOD AND BODIES”

One of the four blasts in Jableh happened when a man walked into a hospital emergency department and blew himself up. Another blast was at a bus station. The Tartous bombs also targeted a bus station, the Observatory and state media said.

Younes Hassan, a doctor at the Jableh hospital, said he heard an explosion at the bus station, followed less than a minute later by the hospital blast.

“Everything went into emergency mode, wounded people began arriving,” he told Reuters by phone.

The International Committee of the Red Cross condemned this latest attack on healthcare.

The Tartous explosions occurred in quick succession, a driver at the bus station said.

“People began running but didn’t know which direction to go, cars were on fire, there was blood and bodies on the ground,” Nizar Hamade said.

Footage broadcast by the state-run Ikhbariya news channel showed several twisted and burnt-out cars and vans.

Islamic State claimed the attacks in a statement posted online by the group’s Amaq news agency, saying its fighters had targeted “gatherings of Alawites”.

A second statement from the militant group said the attacks were carried out in a government-held area “so they experience the same taste of death which Muslims so far have tasted from Russian (and Syrian government) air strikes on Muslim towns.”

Amaq said 10 Islamic State members died in the attacks, 5 in Tartous and 5 in Jableh.

Syria’s Information Minister Omran al-Zoubi said in an interview with Ikhbariya that terrorists were resorting to bomb attacks against civilians instead of fighting on the front lines, and vowed to keep battling them. The government refers to all insurgents fighting against it as terrorists.

The Observatory said an area of Tartous hosting internally displaced Syrians near a blast site was briefly attacked by government supporters in reaction to the bombings. Some tents were burned but nobody was killed.

Tartous governor Safwan Abu Saadah told Reuters reports on social media about refugees being shot were not true. He said some Tartous residents had gone to refugee areas to protect them from possible attacks.

“Two days ago some camps in Tartous province experienced fires because of electrical problems … today’s reports that people burned (these camps) are not true. Nobody would turn against our guests in this way,” Abu Saadah said.

Bombings in Damascus and the western city of Homs this year killed dozens of people and were also claimed by Islamic State, which is fighting against government forces and their allies in some areas, and separately against its jihadist rival al Qaeda and other insurgent groups.

Latakia city, which is north of Jableh and capital of the province, has been targeted on a number of occasions by bombings and insurgent rocket attacks, including late last year.

Government forces and their allies have recently stepped up bombardment of areas in Aleppo province in the north, which has become a focal point for the escalating violence. Insurgents have also launched major attacks in that area.

The only road into rebel-held areas of Aleppo city has suffered a week of increasingly heavy air strikes. Zakaria Malahefji, a senior official in the rebel group Fastaqim that operates in the Aleppo area told Reuters the road was bombarded again on Monday and was dangerous to use.

He said Iranian-backed fighters, who are supporting government forces, were mobilising in the southern Aleppo area.

France’s Foreign Ministry called the Tartous and Jableh bombings “odious” and said violence from all sides must stop if a political transition is to take place.

(Additional reporting by Kinda Makieh in Damascus, Lisa Barrington in Beirut, John Irish in Paris and Dmitry Solovyov in Moscow; Editing by Janet Lawrence)

TAGS   ,

REACH US

The Philippine Broadcast Hub

UNTV, 915 Barangay Philam,

EDSA, Quezon City M.M. 1104

(+632) 8396-8688 (Tel)

info@untv-newsandrescue.com (General inquiries)

ABOUT UNTV

UNTV is a major TV broadcast network with 24-hour programming. An Ultra High Frequency station with strong brand content that appeal to everyone, UNTV is one of the most trusted and successful Philippine networks that guarantees wholesome and quality viewing experience.