News / Middle East

    VOA Reporter Witnesses Air Strike in Syria

    VOA News
    A Syrian warplane bombarded the rebel-controlled northern border town of Azaz on Wednesday, leaving scores wounded and several dozen dead, according to a VOA reporter on the scene.

    VOA correspondent Scott Bobb was interviewing a local rebel commander when a bomb dropped by a Syrian Air Force MiG fighter hit three blocks away.

    "It blew the windows out of the office during the interview, everyone evacuated," Bobb said. "A few minutes later, it appeared that the same MiG made a second pass and dropped another bomb."

    The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said at least 20 people were killed. Reuters reported that one activist said at least 30 bodies had been found and that the death toll is mounting, making it one of the deadliest government attacks in the nearly 18-month-long uprising.

    Bobb reports that residents scurried to free the injured and collect the dead amid collapsed buildings.

    "We are told that there are dozens dead in the city and probably many more wounded to varying degrees," Bobb said. "The citizens are panicking. Many have just jumped into whatever vehicle they have - cars, tractors, motorcycles - and headed away from the town with the fear that this may be the beginning of an offensive, though so far, it appears to just be a one-shot deal."

    "The first bomb we are told hit near the central market," he said from the border area. "The second hit near the hospital.  We witnessed wounded coming across, one man was clearly dead having received shrapnel through the chest, others were lightly wounded but were going to Turkey for treatment."

    "I have seen dozens of people fleeing, often families, sometimes three or four on a motorcycle," Bobb said. "I saw one family of about six on a farm tractor crossing through a rural road, an olive tree field, and others have come through in ambulances, pickup trucks, civilian vehicles, cars."

    Azaz, SyriaAzaz, Syria
    x
    Azaz, Syria
    Azaz, Syria
    Azaz has been in rebel control for weeks and was not a government target until Wednesday, Bobb said.

    "This town had been held by the Free Syrian Army for some time," Bobb said. "It was fairly stable and many of the refugees had returned. Locals say it was the first bombing they have experienced...This may have been something to rattle the population, it may have been a warning."

    Damascus Bombing

    The aerial assault came after a massive bomb exploded Wednesday in a parking lot outside a hotel used by United Nations observers in the Syrian capital, causing injuries but not harming international monitors.

    Location of Dama Rose HotelLocation of Dama Rose Hotel
    x
    Location of Dama Rose Hotel
    Location of Dama Rose Hotel
    ​Syrian state TV reported that the bomb, which ignited a nearby fuel truck, went off near the Dama Rose hotel and military buildings in Damascus. The blast wounded at least three people, but Syria's deputy foreign minister, Faisal Mekdad, said none of the U.N. monitors were affected.

    Mekdad said the choice of location for the blast indicates the "heinous intentions" of those responsible - a veiled reference to insurgents fighting to oust the government of Bashar al-Assad.

    "This is terrorism," Mekdad said. "It should be stopped. The international community must work hand in hand against terrorism. Once it hits here, near the United Nations observers, it can hit everywhere."  

    The rebel Syrian Free Army claimed responsibility, but said it was targeting the Syrian military and not U.N. observers.  An FSA spokesman said the group had learned specifically of a large meeting of officers.

    But Khattar Abou Diab, who teaches political science at the University of Paris, says a coordinated attack would be a very complicated operation for rebels to pull off as the area is likely to be heavily guarded.

    Absent of a major betrayal by officers inside the Syrian military, Abou Diab says it's almost impossible for outside groups to enter the secure military compound enclave.

    And while Abou Diab questions the veracity of the FSA claim, he says that the blast is yet another sign that the Syrian regime is weakening.

    The Syrian capital has seen a wave of bombings recently. This latest incident comes four weeks after an explosion at the National Security building in Damascus killed several of Assad's top security officials.

    The capital has seen fierce clashes between government forces and rebels in recent weeks, after being the scene of relative calm throughout much of the nearly 18-month-long uprising against Assad.

    The Syrian attacks have also overflowed into Lebanon.

    Lebanese state television said at least 20 Syrians were kidnapped inside Lebanese territory Wednesday, and gunmen are terrorizing the streets of Beirut.

    World Weighs Options

    The U.N. Security Council is due to discuss the situation in Syria on Thursday, days before the observer mission's mandate expires on August 19. The mission has already significantly scaled down from its peak of more than 300 monitors.

    U.N. investigators said Wednesday the Syrian government and their militia allies have committed war crimes that include the killing and torturing of civilians. The investigators said rebel forces have also committed war crimes, but that these crimes "did not reach the gravity, frequency and scale" of those committed by the government.

    China's official People's Daily newspaper on Wednesday criticized Western nations for talking about the prospect of a no-fly zone of Syria, saying such comments undermine U.N. mediation efforts and harm the unity of the Security Council.

    The paper also reiterated China's commitment to a diplomatic solution to the crisis.  China has joined Russia in vetoing U.N. Security Council resolutions threatening Syria with sanctions for using heavy weapons against civilians.

    Foreign ministers of the 57-member Organization of Islamic Cooperation agreed during a summit in Mecca to recommend suspending Syria from the group. But the foreign minister of Iran - one of Syria's strongest allies - said his country will never accept the proposal.

    No-Fly Zone Discussed

    U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta said earlier this week he is confident the United States could enforce a no-fly zone, but that it is not a top priority.

    "We have planned for a number of contingencies that could take place and one of those possible contingencies is developing a no-fly zone. But we've also pointed out difficulties in being able to implement that," Panetta said. "It's not on the front burner as far as I know."

    He also says Iran is trying to develop and train a militia in Syria to fight rebels on behalf of Assad's government.

    Last year, the U.S. and its NATO allies implemented a no-fly zone over Libya as rebels fought against and eventually ousted leader Moammar Gadhafi. But the circumstances are different in Syria, which has much more sophisticated air defenses than Libya.

    President Assad's forces have increased air attacks in recent weeks, targeting rebel strongholds in key places such as the nation's largest city of Aleppo.

    Syrian rebels have said they need a no-fly zone to protect against the attacks.

    Government Struggling

    Riad Hijab, Syria’s defected former prime minister, speaks at a press conference at the Hyatt Hotel in Amman, Jordan, August 14, 2012.Riad Hijab, Syria’s defected former prime minister, speaks at a press conference at the Hyatt Hotel in Amman, Jordan, August 14, 2012.
    x
    Riad Hijab, Syria’s defected former prime minister, speaks at a press conference at the Hyatt Hotel in Amman, Jordan, August 14, 2012.
    Riad Hijab, Syria’s defected former prime minister, speaks at a press conference at the Hyatt Hotel in Amman, Jordan, August 14, 2012.
    Former Syrian prime minister Riad Hijab appeared publicly Tuesday for the first time since his defection, calling President Bashar al-Assad's government an "enemy of God" and saying it is collapsing.

    In a news conference in the Jordanian capital Amman, Hijab said he defected last week from the government and joined the 17-month Syrian uprising of his own will. He said he was not dismissed from his post as Syrian authorities claimed and urged other Syrian leaders to break from the government.

    High-Profile Defectors from Syria

    • Prime Minister Riad Hijab defected to Jordan on August 6, two months after taking top post.
    • Nawaf Fares, Syria's ambassador to Iraq became first Syrian envoy to defect on July 11, 2012.
    • Brigadier General Manaf Tlass, highest ranking military officer to abandon Syrian government on July 6, 2012.
    • Colonel Hassan Hammadeh flew his MiG-21 warplane to neighboring Jordan during a June, 2012, training mission and was granted asylum.
    • Imad Ghalioun, member of Syria’s parliament, left country in January, 2012, to join opposition.
    • Adnan Bakkour, former attorney general of Hama, appeared in video in late August 2011 announcing he had defected.
    The former prime minister is the highest-ranking political figure to defect from the Syrian government. He fled to Jordan with his family.

    Hilal Khashan, an analyst at the American University of Beirut, says that Western supporters of the Syrian opposition, including the U.S., are trying to identify ex-members of Assad's regime who are able to form a core leadership for a new Syria.

    "The U.S. is trying to identify defectors from Assad's regime as leaders of a post-Assad Syria," Khashan said. "It's clear [from] that, based on comments by Hijab today, when he said that there are good decent people in Assad's administration and that they should join the uprising."

    Syrian activists say more than 20,000 people have been killed since the start of the revolt in March of last year.

    VOA's Edward Yeranian contributed to this report from Cairo. Information for this report was also provided by AP, AFP and Reuters

    Photo Gallery: Latest Images from Syria

    • A Free Syrian Army fighter observes the area during clashes in Aleppo, August 16, 2012.
    • A Free Syrian Army fighter carries the body of a fellow fighter in Aleppo, August 16, 2012.
    • A Free Syrian Army fighter reads the Quran before clashes in Aleppo, August 16, 2012.
    • A man searches among houses that were destroyed during a recent Syrian Air Force air strike in Azaz, August 15, 2012.
    • Syrians evacuate a wounded man from under the rubble after an air strike destroyed at least ten houses in Azaz on the outskirts of Aleppo, Syria, August 15, 2012.
    • Injured Syrian women arrive at a field hospital after an air strike hit their homes in the town of Azaz on the outskirts of Aleppo, Syria, August 15, 2012.
    • A Syrian man carries an injured child to a field hospital after an air strike hit homes in Azaz on the outskirts of Aleppo, August 15, 2012.
    • Wounded Syrians arrive at a field hospital after an air strike hit their homes in Azaz on the outskirts of Aleppo, August 15, 2012.
    • Syrians wounded in an air strike that hit their homes evacuate a field hospital after a second air strike in Azaz on the outskirts of Aleppo, August 15, 2012.
    • Wounded Syrians evacuate a field hospital after a second air strike in Azaz on the outskirts of Aleppo, August 15, 2012.
    • A Free Syrian Army fighter passes an AK-47 rifle to his fellow fighter in Aleppo, August 14, 2012.
    • A Free Syrian Army fighter reacts after hearing news that his commander had been killed by tank shell in Aleppo, August 14, 2012.
    • A Free Syrian Army fighter fires his sniper rifle from a house in Aleppo, August 14, 2012.
    • Free Syrian Army fighters sit behind a barricade on a street in Aleppo, August 13, 2012.
    • A Free Syrian Army fighter observes the area with a pair of binoculars in Aleppo, August 13, 2012.

    You May Like

    US Lawmakers Vow to Continue Immigrant Program for Afghan Interpreters

    Congressional inaction threatens funding for effort which began in 2008 and has allowed more than 20,000 interpreters, their family members to immigrate to US

    Brexit's Impact on Russia Stirs Concern

    Some analysts see Brexit aiding Putin's plans to destabilize European politics; others note that an economically unstable Europe is not in Moscow's interests

    US to Train Cambodian Government on Combating Cybercrime

    Concerns raised over drafting of law, as critics fear cybercrime regulations could be used to restrict freedom of expression and stifle political dissent

    This forum has been closed.
    Comment Sorting
    Comments
         
    by: ICURPNT from: USA
    August 15, 2012 1:48 PM
    There is no doubt the Middle East is going to explode into oblivion at some point. All the Major Super Powers are dangling their puppet strings. The care for the lives of Human Beings is at an all-time low. The epicenter for WW III, and the destruction of Man lays along this path. Syria is just another piece of the puzzle inflaming the pragmatic status of mankind.

    by: Anonymous
    August 15, 2012 1:21 PM
    And in other news headlines today:
    The panel appointed by the UN's 47-nation Human Rights Council blamed the government and allied militia for the killing of more than 100 civilians in the village of Houla in May, nearly half of them children, and said the murders, unlawful killing, torture, sexual violence and indiscriminate attacks "indicate the involvement at the highest levels of the armed and security forces and the government."

    Assad is proven to be a systematic killer, he should be either a) killed OR b) captured. Lets put an end to this genocide by its very own leader. How does Russia and China feel now? Being buddies with a systematic killer, and preventing him from justice being served? This terrible ordeal has gone on long enough. The world needs to put an end to Assad permanently.
    In Response

    by: Anonymous
    August 16, 2012 1:22 PM
    They tried a cease fire, Assad didn't abide by it. Assad and his father have done the same thing, history shows. I don't care who is fighting against Assad, as long as his killing campaign is ended. I like the fact the west is helping the civillians of Syria stand up against this ruthless regime, the people deserve better. Every Syrian does not want war, but also almost every Syrian prefers to have freedom. No country in the world should have a leader like Assad, ever. Systematically killing your own people suggests you are a Mass Murderer. Obviously Assad has no care in the world for his very own country, history, or people. Destroying Syrian cities is like a kid who can't have his own way.

    by: Michael from: USA
    August 15, 2012 8:51 AM
    International monitors ought to mention the problems that remarks from China and Iran are making. China in the past has held to the idea that civil opposition of any kind calls for a military-oriented approach. And China owns nuclear submarines that in the past have been spotted off the shoreline in the Middle-East. If international conflict coud result from Syria it would be as no surprise since all the parts are in place

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Baghdad Bikers Defy War with a Roari
    X
    June 28, 2016 10:33 AM
    Baghdad is a city of contradictions. War is a constant. Explosions and kidnappings are part of daily life. But the Iraqi capital remains a thriving city, even if a little beat up. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on how some in Baghdad are defying the stereotype of a nation at war by pursuing a lifestyle known for its iconic symbols of rebellion: motorbikes, leather jackets and roaring engines.
    Video

    Video Baghdad Bikers Defy War with a Roar

    Baghdad is a city of contradictions. War is a constant. Explosions and kidnappings are part of daily life. But the Iraqi capital remains a thriving city, even if a little beat up. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on how some in Baghdad are defying the stereotype of a nation at war by pursuing a lifestyle known for its iconic symbols of rebellion: motorbikes, leather jackets and roaring engines.
    Video

    Video Melting Pot of Immigrants Working to Restore US Capitol Dome

    The American Iron Works company is one of the firms working to renovate the iconic U.S. Capitol Dome. The company employs immigrants of many different cultural and national backgrounds. VOA’s Arman Tarjimanyan has more.
    Video

    Video Testing Bamboo as Building Material

    For thousands of years various species of bamboo - one of the world's most versatile plants - have been used for diverse purposes ranging from food and medicine to textiles and construction. But its use on a large scale is hampered because it's not manufactured to specific standards but grown in the ground. A University of Pittsburgh professor is on track to changing that. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Orphanage in Iraqi City Houses Kids Who Lost their Parents to Attacks by IS

    An orphanage in Iraqi Kurdistan has become home to scores of Yazidi children who lost their parents after Islamic State militants took over Sinjar in Iraq’s Nineveh Province in 2014. Iraqi Kurdish forces backed by the U.S. airstrikes have since recaptured Sinjar but the need for the care provided by the orphanage continues. VOA’s Kawa Omar filed this report narrated by Rob Raffaele.
    Video

    Video Re-Opening Old Wounds in a Bullet-Riddled Cultural Landmark

    A cultural landmark before Lebanon’s civil war transformed it into a nest of snipers, Beirut’s ‘Yellow House’ is once again set to play a crucial role in the city.  Built in a neo-Ottoman style in the 1920s, in September it is set to be re-opened as a ‘memory museum’ - its bullet-riddled walls and bunkered positions overlooking the city’s notorious ‘Green Line’ maintained for posterity. John Owens reports from Beirut.
    Video

    Video Brexit Resounds in US Presidential Contest

    Britain’s decision to leave the European Union is resounding in America’s presidential race. As VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, Republican presumptive nominee Donald Trump sees Britain’s move as an affirmation of his campaign’s core messages, while Democrat Hillary Clinton sees the episode as further evidence that Trump is unfit to be president.
    Video

    Video New York Pride March A Celebration of Life, Mourning of Loss

    At this year’s march in New York marking the end of pride week, a record-breaking crowd of LGBT activists and allies marched down Manhattan's Fifth Avenue, in what will be long remembered as a powerful display of solidarity and remembrance for the 49 victims killed two weeks ago in an Orlando gay nightclub.
    Video

    Video NASA Juno Spacecraft, Nearing Jupiter, to Shed Light on Gas Giant

    After a five-year journey, the spacecraft Juno is nearing its destination, the giant planet Jupiter, where it will enter orbit and start sending data back July 4th. As Mike O'Sullivan reports from Pasadena, California, the craft will pierce the veil of Jupiter's dense cloud cover to reveal its mysteries.
    Video

    Video Orlando Shooting Changes Debate on Gun Control

    It’s been nearly two weeks since the largest mass shooting ever in the United States. Despite public calls for tighter gun control laws, Congress is at an impasse. Democratic lawmakers resorted to a 1960s civil rights tactic to portray their frustration. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti explains how the Orlando, Florida shooting is changing the debate.
    Video

    Video Tunisian Fishing Town Searches for Jobs, Local Development Solutions

    As the European Union tries to come to grips with its migrant crisis, some newcomers are leaving voluntarily. But those returning to their home countries face an uncertain future.  Five years after Tunisia's revolution, the tiny North African country is struggling with unrest, soaring unemployment and plummeting growth. From the southern Tunisian fishing town of Zarzis, Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at a search for local solutions.
    Video

    Video 'American Troops' in Russia Despite Tensions

    Historic battle re-enactment is a niche hobby with a fair number of adherents in Russia where past military victories are played-up by the Kremlin as a show of national strength. But, one group of World War II re-enactors in Moscow has the rare distinction of choosing to play western ally troops. VOA's Daniel Schearf explains.
    Video

    Video Muslim American Mayor Calls for Tolerance

    Syrian-born Mohamed Khairullah describes himself as "an American mayor who happens to be Muslim." As the three-term mayor of Prospect Park, New Jersey, he believes his town of 6,000 is an example of how ethnicity and religious beliefs should not determine a community's leadership. Ramon Taylor has this report from Prospect Park.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora