News / Middle East

Activists: Battle in Syria's South Kills 50

VOA News
Syrian rights activists say a battle between government and rebel forces in the southern province of Daraa has killed at least 50 people, more than half of them civilians.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the fighting happened Wednesday as troops loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad launched an assault to oust rebels from the town of Sanamein.

Rebel fighters have made steady territorial gains in southern Syria in recent weeks, in a bid to control access routes to the capital, Damascus, and border crossings with Jordan.

Syria deaths from conflict, updated April 11, 2013Syria deaths from conflict, updated April 11, 2013
x
Syria deaths from conflict, updated April 11, 2013
Syria deaths from conflict, updated April 11, 2013
The group said the battle for Sanamein killed at least 29 civilians, 16 rebels and nine pro-Assad troops, mostly in shelling and summary executions. It was not clear which side attacked the civilians.

A video posted online by opposition activists appeared to show the bodies laid out in a building, with children among the dead.

Elsewhere in Syria, rebels said that they shot down a government helicopter in the northern province of Idlib on Thursday as it tried to deliver supplies to an army base they have surrounded.

Another activist Internet video showed the gruesome aftermath of the helicopter's crash, with the bodies of its four-man crew sprawled around a field.
 
Charges of deliberate attacks
 
U.S.-based rights group Human Rights Watch said the Assad government also has used helicopters and fighter jets to carry out deliberate and indiscriminate attacks against civilians, killing more than 4,000 since the middle of last year.  

In a report published Thursday, the group said the Syrian air strikes constitute war crimes and urged the international community to pressure Assad to stop them.

HRW Middle East and North Africa deputy director Nadim Houry told VOA the attacks also amount to crimes against humanity when carried out as part of a Syrian government policy.

"Many of the helicopters are using barrel bombs," said Houry. "These are makeshift bombs prepared by the Syrian air force sometimes on their bases, and they just drop these bombs from the back of the helicopter from very high places without any real targeting. So they are really punishing the civilian population in the areas where the opposition has taken control."

HRW said it sent a team into Syria between August and December, documenting 59 government air strikes on rebel areas of Aleppo, Idlib and Latakia. It said those attacks killed 152 civilians, some at bakeries and hospitals.

Houry said the impact of the air strikes goes beyond the immediate casualties.  

"They are also affecting life in large parts of the country because people live in constant fear of what is going to happen," said Houry. "Many parents for example do not send their children to schools and have stopped lining up to buy bread at bakeries because of repeated air strikes. It is really creating a sense of terror, given the weapons being used by the Syrian air force including cluster munitions which are inherently indiscriminate."

​In 41 of the air strikes documented by the team, HRW said rebel positions were located within 50 to 400 meters of where the government missiles hit civilians. Houry said opposition fighters should avoid that kind of proximity.  

"Their violations are mostly tied to the fact that they have not taken all necessary precautions to protect civilians and minimize harm, for example by sometimes basing themselves in houses or buildings in civilian areas," said Houry. "But even these cases do not relieve the obligation of the attackers of the Syrian air force to take the necessary precaution to minimize harm to civilians, which is something that they clearly have not done."

The Syrian government had no immediate response to the HRW accusations. It has long claimed that it is fighting only against foreign-backed terrorists, denying the existence of the two-year revolt against Assad's autocratic rule.

You May Like

India PM Modi's party distances itself from religious conversions

BJP under fire for being slow to rein in hardline affiliate groups allegedly trying to promote a Hindu-dominant agenda by luring Muslims and Christians to convert to Hinduism More

Anti-Whaling Group Found in Contempt of Court

Radical environmentalists who threw acid and smoke bombs at Japanese whalers in the waters off Antarctica continue their campaign to disrupt Japan's annual whale hunt More

UN's Ban Urges End to Discrimination Against Ebola Workers

Ban was speaking in Guinea on the second day of a whistle-stop tour aimed at thanking healthcare workers of the countries at the heart of the epidemic More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacksi
X
December 19, 2014 12:45 AM
The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video VOA Reporter Tours Devastated Peshawar School

Islamist militants wearing military uniforms and strapped with explosives attacked a military run school Tuesday in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar. At least 141 people were killed in the horrific attack, most of them young students. VOA reporter Ayaz Gul visited the devastated school and attended the funeral of the principal who courageously tried to save her students from the deadly attack.
Video

Video Nigerians Fleeing Boko Haram Languish in Camp Near Capital

In its five-year effort to impose Islamic law in northeastern Nigeria, the Boko Haram extremist group has killed thousands of people and forced hundreds of thousands to flee. Some of those who ran for their lives now live in squalor on the edges of the capital, Abuja. Chris Stein reports for VOA.
Video

Video Putin Says Russian Economy Will Emerge Stronger

Russian President Vladimir Putin has said his country's sinking economy will not only recover but also become stronger, despite falling oil prices and Western sanctions over Ukraine. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Detained Turkish Journalists Follow Teachings of US-Based Preacher

The Turkish government’s jailing of critical journalists has sparked international condemnation and is being seen as an effort to undermine the followers of an ailing Turkish preacher based in the United States. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky has more.
Video

Video ‘Anti-Islamization’ Marches Increase Tensions In Germany

Anti-immigrant rallies in Germany have been building in recent weeks, peaking Monday night in the city of Dresden where tens of thousands of people turned out to demonstrate against what they call the ‘Islamization’ of the West. Germany has offered asylum to more Syrian refugees than any other country, and this appears to have set off the protests. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.
Video

Video Refugees Living in Kenya Long for Peace in the Home Countries

Kenya is host to numerous refugees seeking safe haven from conflict. Immigrants from Somalia face challenges in their new lives in Kenya. Ahead of International Migrants Day (December 18) Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.

All About America

AppleAndroid