X Pin to desktop X Outcry grows over bombing of Syria camp for displaced

by Karam al-Masri Condemnation mounted Friday over deadly air strikes on a camp for displaced people in northern Syria as the regime denied involvement, while a fragile ceasefire held in the battleground city of Aleppo.

Women and children were reported to be among the 28 civilians killed in Thursday’s raids near the Turkish border, which left 50 others wounded.

The strikes in Idlib province, which is controlled by Syria’s Al-Qaeda affiliate Al-Nusra Front and rebel allies, came as a 48-hour ceasefire took hold in Aleppo city to the east.

That truce entered its second day on Friday, allowing residents some respite from two weeks of fighting that killed more than 280 civilians, even as fighting raged to the south of the city.

The halt in fighting is part of international efforts to revive a landmark February ceasefire and galvanise peace talks to end a five-year war that has killed more than 270,000 people and displaced millions.

Mamun al-Khatib, director of the Aleppo-based pro-rebel Shahba Press news agency, accused “regime aircraft” of firing missiles at the camp in Al-Kammouna village — an accusation denied by Damascus.

“There is no truth in the information in some media that the Syrian air force targeted the displaced camp in Idlib province” on Thursday, the official SANA news agency quoted the military as saying.

It accused rebels of targeting civilians.

But the United States described the raids as “totally in keeping” with the regime’s past operations.

– Charred bodies –

A video posted online by the civil defence showed emergency workers dragging a fire hose amid plumes of smoke rising from destroyed tents, as their colleagues covered the charred remains of victims with blankets and carried them away.

The video also showed dismembered bodies covered in blood and dirt, at least one of them a child.

“There’s absolutely no justification for attacks on civilians in Syria, but especially on what appears to have been a refugee camp,” said State Department spokesman Mark Toner.

The European Union has called the bombardment “unacceptable”.

UN rights chief Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein said the camp’s tents could clearly be seen from the air so it was “extremely unlikely” to have been an accident.

“It is far more likely they were deliberate and amount to a war crime,” he added.

Regime aircraft have previously targeted rebels as well as Al-Qaeda affiliate Al-Nusra Front and the Islamic State jihadist group.

Russia also launched air raids in support of Damascus in September, while a US-led coalition has conducted air strikes against IS in Syria since 2014.

Thousands of civilians have fled fighting in the northern province of Aleppo to camps along the border with Turkey, which refuses to let them cross the frontier.

– Islamists seize town –

South of Aleppo city, clashes between Syrian regime forces and Al-Qaeda-affiliated jihadists and their allies have left more than 70 dead from both sides, the Syrian Human Rights Observatory said on Friday.

Al-Nusra and allied Islamists seized Khan Tuman and surrounding villages after less than 24 hours of clashes, according to the Britain-based monitor, which relies on a network of sources in Syria.

Pro-regime troops had driven the jihadists out of Khan Tuman, located about 10 kilometres (six miles) southeast of Aleppo, in December.

“The recapture of the area and surrounding villages means that the regime’s lines of defence south of the country’s second city have been pushed back,” Observatory head Rami Abdel Rahman said.

A landmark February 27 ceasefire — which has been severely threatened by recent violence in and around Aleppo — does not include areas where IS and Al-Nusra are present.

As warplanes hit the Idlib camp on Thursday, the Syrian regime celebrated its recapture of the ancient city Palmyra with a classical concert in its amphitheatre.

Before regime troops backed by Russian warplanes retook the city from IS in late March, the theatre had acted as a backdrop for the jihadist group’s executions.

Famed conductor Valery Gergiev is to lead his orchestra in a second concert at the same venue on Friday night.


© 1994-2016 Agence France-Presse


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