Saturday 8 September 2012
A bombing in Aleppo that killed a woman, two of her children and their young cousin triggers outrage among Kurds at a village funeral and throughout the region.
AFRIN, Syrian Kurdistan,— The mourners chanted, “Long live Kurdistan!” as the doleful cortege moved slowly toward the hillside cemetery, past the olive groves and pomegranate orchards.
Funerals have long become settings for political theater in strife-ridden Syria, where each side has tried to turn burials of war dead into highly public affirmations of their adversary’s barbarity.
But the procession Friday through the village of Basuta wasn’t just another instance of a funeral becoming a rallying cry against the government of President Bashar Assad.
In this case, the victims — a woman, two of her children and their young cousin, all killed Thursday when bombs fell on an Aleppo neighborhood — were members of Syria’s Kurdish community, the nation’s largest ethnic minority.
The deaths triggered widespread outrage in the region, a vast expanse of heavily farmed valleys and rocky highlands dotted with Roman-era ruins and other ancient sites.
“This was a criminal act,” declared Said Najjar, an official of the Kurdish National Council, who attended the funeral along with other Kurdish leaders. “It is proof of the regime’s criminality.”
Whether the bombing would push Kurds into a more active role in the almost 18-month rebellion remained unclear.
Some Kurdish leaders have avoided taking sides in Syria’s raging conflict. Instead, they have seized on the state’s debilitated status to gain de facto control of Kurdish areas, including this sprawling township — where Assad’s administration left months ago and Kurdish groups have filled the void.
Several officials of the most powerful and best-armed Kurdish faction, the Democratic Union Party (known as the PYD, its Kurdish initials), said Friday that the group was committed to maintaining its “neutral” stance in Syria’s civil conflict. The PYD has had an uneasy relationship with the rebel Free Syrian Army,www.ekurd.net dominated by Sunni Arabs, though the Kurdish party has denied charges of collaborating with the Assad government.
At the funeral, a contingent of camouflage-clad Free Syrian Army fighters were among those who paid their respects.
“We are one people, Kurdish and Arab,” a rebel who gave his name as Abu Abdo, 32, said afterward.
He and several comrades had come from the front-line battle in Aleppo’s Salahuddin district, they said.
One PYD official, however, questioned whether the Kurds may have been unintended victims of wayward bombs. “This has to be investigated,” said the official, who like others interviewed declined to be named.
The four died in an aerial bombing strike on the Sheik Maqsood neighborhood in Aleppo, according to Kurdish authorities. The district is home to many migrants from Kurdish villages in Aleppo province.
The four buried here Friday were among at least 21 killed and 38 injured in the bombing, officials said. Funerals were also held in other area villages.
For those gathered for the public funeral, there seemed to be no question that the bombing was a deliberate strike on a Kurdish civilian enclave.
“We will take revenge!” mourners declared in one of a number of rhythmic chants assailing Assad’s government.
Women wearing head scarves and dressed in traditional Kurdish long dresses ululated in grief. Many knew the family and couldn’t hold back tears.
“None of us could believe this happened,” said a woman who described herself as a relative of the deceased mother, identified as Amina Mohamad Hassan, 35. “We heard that there had been a bombing near the Marouf mosque in the neighborhood and were so worried. Then we learned it was Amina and her family. That was shocking.”
The woman’s dead children were identified as Jowan, 7, and Shirin, 3. The cousin wasn’t identified.
The father, described as a laborer who has worked as a shoemaker and taxi driver, was seriously injured and remained hospitalized in Aleppo, said friends and relatives of the family. The couple’s two other children also survived.
A man who gave his name as Mustafa said he witnessed the attack and helped bring victims to the hospital. He said a government aircraft was responsible. The Syrian military has used aircraft to devastating effect in their battle to push back rebels in Aleppo.
The first bomb struck about 6:20 p.m. Thursday, hitting a four-story apartment building where the family lived, Mustafa said. Then, a few minutes later, as volunteers struggled to remove victims from the smoldering rubble, another bomb exploded on the street outside.
“People who tried to rescue people were killed by the second bomb,” Mustafa said.
The four coffins, draped in Kurdish flags, were taken to the cemetery in pickup trucks and then carried to the graves. Loudspeakers played songs celebrating Kurdish “martyrs” of past struggles. A speaker who was no more than 12 years old used a microphone to lead antigovernment chants.
Beneath a blazing sun, the four victims were lowered into their final resting place, amid the wails of loved ones and volleys of ceremonial gunfire from rebel fighters positioned on the hillside above.
Copyright ©, respective author or news agency, latimes.com | Los Angeles Times
Syrian Observatory for Human Rights: Preliminary death toll for Saturday 8/9/2012: More than 140 Syrians killed so far today. The dead: 35 unarmed civilians, 30 rebel fighters, 2 defected soldiers, and 36 members of the Syrian armed forces.
**Reports that 17 summarily executed unidentified perso
35 Unarmed civilians :
-In Reef Dimashq 7 civilians were killed. 1 civilian from Qatana was killed by random fire in Damascus. 1 killed from the bombardment on Harasta. 1 civilian was killed in the town of Yalda, he was shot by a sniper. 4 unidentified bodies were found in Mou’adamiya.
-In Damascus 14 civilians were killed. 1 was killed by a sniper in the Qadam neighbourhood. 2 civilians were found killed in the Kafarsouseh neighbourhood, 2 days after their disappearance. 9 civilians were killed in the Tadamun neighbourhood, 1 was killed by the bombardment, 8 were killed during the military operations on the neighbourhood, the SOHR has managed to document 4 of their names. 2 civilians were killed in the Yarmouk refugee camp, 1 died from wounds by the shelling, the other was killed under unknown circumstances.
-In Aleppo province 3 civilians were killed. 1 by regime fire wounds in Saif al-Dawla. 2 civilians were killed in the town of Anadan, 1 was killed by the gunfire in Anadan, an unidentified person was killed when his car was hit during clashes between rebel fighters and regime forces.
-In Homs province 4 civilians were killed. 3 civilians, including a woman and a child, were killed by the bombardment on the towns of Talbisa, Rastan and Arjoun. 1 died of wounds in al-Quseir. 1 civilian was killed by pro-regime gunmen in the town of al-Houla.
-In Idleb province 1 civilian was killed when his car was shot by regime forces near the city of Ma’arat al-Nu’man.
-In Latakia province 2 young men were killed by the bombardment on the town of Selma, Reef Latakia.
-In Dera’a province 4 civilians were killed . 2 were killed by regime forces in Dera’a city. A truck driver was shot by regime forces on the Nasib road. A civilian from the town of Um al-Mayatheen was killed by regime forces in Bebeila, Reef Dimashq.
30 Rebel fighters:
Reef Dimashq: 19 rebel fighters were killed. 1 rebel killed by regime fire in Zamalka. 15 rebels from the city of Douma were killed by an ambush set up for them by regime forces on the Adra road, 6 of their names were documented, they were from Douma.
Aleppo province: 8 rebels were killed by clashes, 1 in the Hanano barracks, 7 with the al-Layramoun military checkpoint.
Homs province: 2 rebels killed. 1 rebel was killed during clashes in the Homs neighbourhood of Jourat al-Shayyah. Another was killed at a military checkpoint in the city of al-Quseir.
Idleb province: 1 rebel died of wounds by clashes in Ma’arat al-Nu’man.
2 defected soldiers were killed: 1 by clashes in Aleppo, the other was shot by regime forces in Idleb.
No less than 36 members of the Syrian armed forces were killed by clashes, and attacks on checkpoints, in the provinces of Aleppo, Damascus, Reef Dimashq, Dera’a and Idleb.
[local time] 21:41 Syrian regime forces’ warplanes shelled the region of Hanano in Aleppo, Al-Arabiya quoted activists as saying.
21:39 Aleppo was suffering from severe drinking water shortages on Saturday after a main pipeline was destroyed in a northern district of the city, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
20:03 Bodies of 17 people who were summarily executed were discovered in Jadat al-Khandaq in Syria’s Aleppo, Al-Arabiya quoted activists as saying.
19:21 Syrian regime forces’ warplanes shelled Maarat al-Naaman in the Edleb district, Al-Arabiya quoted activists as saying.
19:15 The death toll in Syria has reached 148 on Saturday, Al-Arabiya quoted activists as saying.
18:43 Syrian troops backed by tanks and helicopters repelled a rebel attack on an army base in the northern city of Aleppo on Saturday after a 20-hour battle, military officials and witnesses said.
17:07 Mortar rounds or rockets fired from Syria killed a young Iraqi girl and wounded four people in a border town in western Iraq, an army officer and the Interior Ministry said on Saturday.
16:09 Saturday’s death toll in Syria has risen to 86 people, Al-Arabiya quoted activists as saying.
14:02 Saturday’s in Syria death toll has increased to 47, Al-Arabiya quoted activists as saying.
13:49 EU foreign ministers agreed on the need to beef up sanctions against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime at talks in Cyprus on Saturday, said Cypriot Foreign Minister Erato Kozakou-Marcoullis.
12:47 An AFP feature story describes the experiences of Syrians seeking refuge in Sudan.
12:42 The spiraling conflict in Syria is raising questions about the “duty of intervention,” Belgian’s Foreign Minister Didier Reynders said during talks with European Union counterparts on Saturday.
12:26 Syrian forces killed 23 people on Saturday, Al-Arabiya quoted activists as saying.
12:17 Syrian troops backed by tanks and helicopters repelled a rebel attack on an army base in the northern city of Aleppo on Saturday after a 20-hour battle, military officials and witnesses said.
10:43 Mortar rounds fired from Syria killed a young Iraqi girl and wounded four other people overnight in a border town in western Iraq, security and medical officials said on Saturday.
10:37 A YouTube video uploaded on Friday purportedly shows people released from a prison in Aleppo’s Masken Hanano by the Free Syrian Army. According to a man speaking, the number of prisoners released is around 300. He also says that most of the released prisoners were former security forces members who refused to open fire on civilians. A former prisoner says he was detained because he refused to obey orders to open fire on civilians. He also says that an officer at the prison opened fire when FSA fighters entered to release the prisoners and added that he was injured in his chest and head. He added that another prisoner with him was shot dead by the another officer at the prison.
9:41 Syrian Information Minister Omran al-Zohbi said on Friday evening that his country would not use chemical weapons, but would not explicitly reveal whether his country possessed a chemical arsenal.
9:07 US sanctions on Syria and Iran are harming Russian business interests, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Saturday.
8:08 Syrian forces shelled Al-Yarmuk Palestinian refugee camp and Damascus’ neighborhoods of Al-Hajar al-Aswad and Al-Tadamoun, Al-Jazeera reported.
7:40 Russia will press the UN Security Council to this month endorse a Syria peace accord that was brokered in Geneva and has since split world powers, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Saturday.
7:39 US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Saturday held talks that were expected to focus on their two nations’ deep differences over Syria.
7:37 The Druze of Idlib province have not yet taken up arms in the war to unseat Syrian President Bashar al-Assad but have declared their support for Sunni Muslims at the heart of the rebellion.
7:36 Since the regular army recaptured the city’s Christian district of Jdeideh from the rebel Free Syrian Army on August 22, the frontline has come to a virtual standstill in the area despite intermittent outbursts of violence.
7:33 Syria peace envoy Lakhdar Brahimi faces the arduous task of seeking an end to a bloody conflict that has dim hopes of a peaceful outcome, as world powers remain divided over a solution, analysts say.
7:28 An AFP feature story describes how fighting in Aleppo escalated on Friday as rebels attacked the Hanano military base where they had been shelled from before.
Several Aleppo neighbourhoods have been left without drinking water after a water main was damaged in fighting.
Separately, a rocket fired from western Syria killed a small girl over the border in Iraq, officials said.
It is one of the worst incidents across the Iraqi border since the Syrian conflict began in March 2011.
Meanwhile, the new UN-Arab League envoy Lakhdar Brahimi is set to begin mediation efforts, with a visit to Cairo for talks with Arab League foreign ministers.
In Aleppo, government forces are reported to have regained control of a barracks on the north-east side of the city, after a lengthy battle with rebels.
The rebels had seized control of the Hanano barracks, one of the largest army posts in the area, on Friday.
During the fighting, a major pipeline supplying water to Aleppo was badly damaged.
The city – the largest in Syria, with a population of about three million – is now suffering from shortages of drinking water, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a UK-based opposition activist group.
“We cannot say how it was ruptured, but there were air strikes and clashes between the army and rebels in the area,” Observatory director Rami Abdel Rahman told AFP news agency.
The BBC’s Jim Muir in neighbouring Lebanon says video posted by activists from the Shaar quarter of Aleppo shows an apocalyptic scene of destruction in a street devastated by what they said were government air strikes.
The activists said several rebel-held parts of Aleppo were similarly bombarded.
In Damascus, government forces have shelled a southern district populated mainly by Palestinians.
Syria’s Palestinian population stayed on the sidelines during the early months of the conflict, but recently Palestinian youths have been joining the rebels fighting the government of President Bashar al-Assad.
As the fighting continues, international envoy Lakhdar Brahimi is preparing for his first visit to the region since he took up his post last month.
He will hold several days of talks in Cairo before heading to Damascus.
On Saturday, EU foreign ministers meeting in Cyprus agreed to tighten sanctions on Syria, with diplomats saying new measures could be introduced next month.
However, our correspondent says diplomatic efforts to halt the carnage currently have no traction at all.
Activists say at least 23,000 people have been in the 18 months since the start of the conflict.
Syrian government troops stormed an area of Damascus populated by Palestinian refugees on Saturday after a four-day artillery assault on the southern suburb where rebels have been sheltering, opposition activists said. | Video
Jihadists join Aleppo fight, eye Islamic state, surgeon says: PARIS – Foreign Islamists intent on turning Syria into an autocratic theocracy have swollen the ranks of rebels fighting to topple President Bashar al-Assad and think they are waging a “holy war”, a French surgeon who treated fighters in Aleppo has said.