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

Video Snowstorm Sweeps Northeastern US

'This is nothing like we feared it would be,' New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio says; he had warned storm could be one of worst in city history More

Millions of Displaced Nigerians Struggle With Daily Existence

Government acknowledges over a million people displaced in 2014 due to fight against Boko Haram insurgency More

Facebook: Internal Error to Blame for Outages

Temporary outage appeared to spill over and temporarily slow or block traffic to other major Internet sites More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Obama Urges Closer Economic Ties During Historic India Visiti
X
Aru Pande
January 26, 2015 9:33 PM
U.S. President Barack Obama says the United States and India must do better to capitalize on untapped potential in their economic relationship - by removing some of the roadblocks to greater trade and investment. As VOA correspondent Aru Pande reports from New Delhi, Obama spoke after participating in India’s Republic Day celebration.
Video

Video Obama Urges Closer Economic Ties During Historic India Visit

U.S. President Barack Obama says the United States and India must do better to capitalize on untapped potential in their economic relationship - by removing some of the roadblocks to greater trade and investment. As VOA correspondent Aru Pande reports from New Delhi, Obama spoke after participating in India’s Republic Day celebration.
Video

Video US, EU Threaten New Russia Sanctions Over Ukraine

U.S. President Barack Obama has blamed Russia for an attack by Ukrainian separatists that left dozens dead in the port of Mariupol and cast further doubt on the viability of last year’s cease-fire with the Kyiv government. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports from Washington.
Video

Video White House Grapples With Yemen Counterterrorism Strategy

Reports say the U.S. has carried out a drone strike on suspected militants in Yemen, the first after President Barack Obama offered reassurances the U.S. is continuing its counterterrorism operations in the country. The future of those operations has been in question following the collapse last week of Yemen’s government. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Kerry Warns Against Violence in Nigeria Election

US Secretary of State John Kerry visited Nigeria Sunday in a show of the level of concern within the U.S. and the international community over next month’s presidential election. Chris Stein reports.
Video

Video Zoo Animals Show Their Artistic Sides

The pursuit of happiness is so important, America's founding fathers put it in the Declaration of Independence. Any zookeeper will tell you animals need enrichment, just like humans do. So painting, and even music, are part of the Smithsonian National Zoo's program to keep the animals happy. VOA’s June Soh met some animal artists at the zoo in Washington. Faith Lapidus narrates.
Video

Video Worldwide Photo Workshops Empower Youth

Last September, 20 young adults from South Sudan took part in a National Geographic Photo Camp. They are among hundreds of students from around the world who have learned how to use a camera to tell the stories of the people in their communities through the powerful medium of photography. Three camp participants talked about their experiences recently on a visit to Washington. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Saudi, Yemen Developments Are Sudden Complications for Obama

The death of Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah and the collapse of Yemen’s government have cast further uncertainty on U.S. efforts to fight militants in the Middle East and also contain Iran’s influence in the region. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports on the new complications facing the Obama administration and its Middle East policy.
Video

Video Progress, Some Areas of Disagreement in Cuba Talks

U.S. and Cuban officials are reporting progress from initial talks in Havana on re-establishing diplomatic ties. U.S. Assistant Secretary of State (for Western Hemisphere Affairs) Roberta Jacobson said while there was agreement on a broad range of issues, there also are some “profound disagreements” between Washington and Havana. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins has the story.
Video

Video US, Japan Offer Lessons as Eurozone Launches Huge Stimulus

The Euro currency has fallen sharply after the European Central Bank announced a bigger-than-expected $67 billion-a-month quantitative easing program Thursday - commonly seen as a form of printing new money. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London on whether the move might rescue the eurozone economy -- and what lessons have been learned from similar programs around the world.
Video

Video Nigerian Elections Pose Concern of Potential Conflict in 'Middle Belt'

Nigeria’s north-central state of Kaduna has long been the site of fighting between Muslims and Christians as well as between people of different ethnic groups. As the February elections approach, community and religious leaders are making plans they hope will keep the streets calm after results are announced. Chris Stein reports from the state capital, Kaduna.
Video

Video As Viewership Drops, Obama Puts His Message on YouTube

Ratings reports show President Obama’s State of the Union address this week drew the lowest number of viewers for this annual speech in 15 years. White House officials anticipated this, and the president has decided to take a non-traditional approach to getting his message out. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video S. Korean Businesses Want to End Trade Restrictions With North

Business leaders in South Korea are calling for President Park Geun-hye to ease trade restrictions with North Korea that were put in place in 2010 after the sinking of a South Korean warship.Pro-business groups argue that expanding trade and investment is not only good for business, it is also good for long-term regional peace and security. VOA’s Brian Padden reports.

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More

All About America

AppleAndroid