News / Middle East

    Bombs Target Syrian Bakeries, Customers

    Syrians wait alongside rubble in Maaret Misreen near Idlib to buy bread at a local bakery, December 12. (AP)
    Syrians wait alongside rubble in Maaret Misreen near Idlib to buy bread at a local bakery, December 12. (AP)
    David Arnold
    President Bashar al-Assad’s military is attacking bakery facilities in rebel-held areas of the country in an attempt to undermine support for insurgents who have been trying for two years to topple his government.

    Human rights activists in Syria say close to 400 people have been killed in such attacks in the past eight months. But despite the risks, activists say residents desperate for food continue to line up for bread each morning to get their daily allotment of the flat Syrian bread known as Tannour.

    The office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights has said that if the bakery attacks are shown to be systematic and widespread, they could be considered war crimes or crimes against humanity.

    U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights South African Navanethem Pillay gestures during a press conference at the European headquarters of the United Nations in Geneva (file)U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights South African Navanethem Pillay gestures during a press conference at the European headquarters of the United Nations in Geneva (file)
    x
    U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights South African Navanethem Pillay gestures during a press conference at the European headquarters of the United Nations in Geneva (file)
    U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights South African Navanethem Pillay gestures during a press conference at the European headquarters of the United Nations in Geneva (file)
    On January 19, High Commissioner Navi Pillay repeated her request that the U.N. refer the Assad regime to the International Criminal Court for investigation.

    Driving up prices for a starving population

    The attacks on neighborhood bakeries are often carried out in the morning when 200 or more Syrians are lined up waiting to buy bread. Large commercial bakeries also have been hit, making the staple of the Syrian diet an expensive and rare commodity.

    In a mid-January, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID)  reported that in addition to the destroyed bakeries and flour mills, the shortage of flour, fuel and electricity have resulted in widespread bread shortages. USAID officials said late last week they pledged $10 million to supply Aleppo with enough flour for 210,000 Syrians for five months.

    In the city of Aleppo, the price of bread rose from the equivalent of 10 cents a kilogram two years ago to $2.20 per kilogram last month, according to a non-government organization working with USAID.

    More than 90 Halfaya residents were killed when a Syrian air force Sukhoi-22 jet dropped eight cluster bombs on the town’s sole surviving bakery
    According to USAID, a government plane bombed the only bakery left in the central Syrian town of Halfaya, where residents were waiting to buy bread. Western media accounts of the bombing said it killed more than 60 bakery customers.

    In a similar incident, the opposition's largest activist networks, the Syrian Revolutionary General Commission (SRGC), says more than 90 residents were killed when a Syrian air force Sukhoi-22 jet dropped eight cluster bombs on the town’s sole surviving bakery.

    Activists charge regime with terrorism

    “The regime has deliberately and systematically been targeting bakeries and civilian gatherings lining in front of them in order to terrorize civilians and cause the highest death tolls…, ” the SRGC said in a report entitled Baked in Blood.

    “Bread is one of the most important foods in Arab countries,” said Layal Mohammad, who contributed to the SRGC report. “Since the regime knows bread is a basic need for civilians, ovens and bakeries are being targeted.”

    The SRCG study said such attacks have been carried out in nine of the country’s 14 provinces. Mohammad said the study could find no bakeries attacked in the five provinces under regime control.

    Human Rights Watch eyewitness accounts

    Human Rights Watch charged that over a three-week period last August, the Syrian government bombed or shelled areas around 10 bakeries in Aleppo province.

    “Ten bakery attacks is not random – they show no care for civilians and strongly indicate an attempt to target them,” said Ole Solvang, a researcher for Human Rights Watch. 

    Ten bakery attacks is not random – they show no care for civilians and strongly indicate an attempt to target them
    Human Rights Watch researchers witnessed some of the attacks, saying that government helicopters flew in firing rockets and dropping bombs. In some cases, people waiting in the bread lines heard the sounds of jets and helicopters and ran away. Others were hit by pieces of shrapnel.

    One Human Rights Watch report described an incident in the town of Bab al-Hadid last August 23. It said a man it identified as  “Fais” was standing at the doorway of the Aqyoul bakery, with as many as 200 residents lined up outside, when a government helicopter bombed the facility, killing at least 23 people.

    “I heard the helicopter and started telling people that there was no more bread left,” the 44-year-old Fais told Human Rights Watch. “I just wanted them to leave, away from danger.”

    “The bomb hit the corner of the street, and the shrapnel flew straight into the line – everyone still there was either killed or heavily injured,” Fais reported.

    Human Rights Watch has accused the Assad government of indiscriminate attacks on civilians and has urged the U.N. Security Council to refer the matter to the International Criminal Court.

    You May Like

    California Republicans Mull Choices in Presidential Race

    Ted Cruz tells state's Republican Convention delegates campaign will be 'battle on the ground, district by district by district,' ahead of June 7 primary

    Video Kurdish Football Team Helps War-Torn City Cope

    With conflict still raging across much of Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, many Kurds are trying to escape turmoil by focusing on success of football team Amedspor

    South African Company Designs Unique Solar Cooker

    Two-man team of solar power technologists introduces Sol4, hot plate that heats up so fast it’s like cooking with gas or electricity

    This forum has been closed.
    Comment Sorting
    Comments
         
    by: Anonymous
    January 30, 2013 12:50 PM
    It is reasons like this that Bashar al Assad should face a death penalty in Syria by the Nation. Dropping bombs on bakeries is a form of genocide. He is targeting people who need to eat now. Bashar should be hanged for his crimes by the Syrian people.

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Turkish Kurd Islamist Rally Stokes Tensionsi
    X
    April 29, 2016 12:28 AM
    In a sign of the rising power of Islamists in Turkey, more than 100,000 people recently gathered in Diyarbakir, the main city in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, to mark the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad. The gathering highlighted tensions with the pro-secular Kurdish nationalist movement. Dorian Jones reports from Diyarbakir.
    Video

    Video Turkish Kurd Islamist Rally Stokes Tensions

    In a sign of the rising power of Islamists in Turkey, more than 100,000 people recently gathered in Diyarbakir, the main city in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, to mark the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad. The gathering highlighted tensions with the pro-secular Kurdish nationalist movement. Dorian Jones reports from Diyarbakir.
    Video

    Video Pakistani School Helps Slum Kids

    Master Mohammad Ayub runs a makeshift school in a public park in Islamabad. Thousands of poor children have benefited from his services over the years, but, as VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem reports, roughly 25 million school-age youths don't get an education in Pakistan.
    Video

    Video Florida’s Weeki Wachee ‘Mermaids’ Make a Splash

    Since 1947, ‘mermaids’ have fascinated tourists at central Florida’s Weeki Wachee Springs State Park with their fluid movements and synchronized ballet. Performing underwater has its challenges, including cold temperatures and a steady current, as VOA’s Lin Yang and Joseph Mok report.
    Video

    Video Somali, African Union Forces Face Resurgent Al-Shabab

    The Islamic State terror group claimed its first attack in Somalia earlier this week, though the claim has not been verified by forces on the ground. Meanwhile, al-Shabab militants have stepped up their attacks as Somalia prepares for elections later this year. Henry Ridgwell reports there are growing frustrations among Somalia’s Western backers over the country’s slow progress in forming its own armed forces to establish security after 25 years of chaos.
    Video

    Video Bangladesh Targeted Killings Spark Wave of Fear

    People in Bangladesh’s capital are expressing deep concern over the brutal attacks that have killed secular blogger, and most recently a gay rights activist and an employee of the U.S. embassy. Xulhaz Mannan, an embassy protocol officer and the editor of the country’s only gay and transgender magazine Roopban; and his friend Mehboob Rabbi Tanoy, a gay rights activist, were hacked to death by five attackers in Mannan’s Dhaka home earlier this month.
    Video

    Video Documentary Tells Tale of Chernobyl Returnees

    Ukraine this week is marking the 30th anniversary of the world's worst nuclear accident, at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. Soviet officials at first said little about the accident, but later evacuated a 2,600-square-kilometer "exclusion zone." Some people, though, came back. American directors Holly Morris and Anne Bogart created a documentary about this faithful and brave community. VOA's Tetiana Kharchenko reports from New York on "The Babushkas of Chernobyl." Carol Pearson narrates.
    Video

    Video Nigerians Feel Bite of Buhari Economic Policy

    Despite the global drop in the price of oil, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has refused to allow the country's currency to devalue, leading to a shortage of foreign exchange. Chris Stein reports from Lagos businessmen and consumers are feeling the impact as the country deals with a severe fuel shortage.
    Video

    Video  Return to the Wild

    There’s a growing trend in the United States to let old or underused golf courses revert back to nature. But as Erika Celeste reports from one parcel in Grafton, Ohio, converting 39 hectares of land back to green space is a lot more complicated than just not mowing the fairway.
    Video

    Video West Urges Unity in Libya as Migrant Numbers Soar

    The Italian government says a NATO-led mission aimed at stemming the flow of migrants from Libya to Europe could be up and running by July. There are concerns that the number of migrants could soar as the route through Greece and the Balkans remains blocked. Western powers say the political chaos in Libya is being exploited by people smugglers — and they are pressuring rival groups to come together under the new unity government. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Russia’s TV Rain Swims Against Tide in Sea of Kremlin Propaganda

    Russia’s media freedoms have been gradually eroded under President Vladimir Putin as his government has increased state ownership, influence, and restrictions on critical reporting. Television, where most Russians get their news, has been the main target and is now almost completely state controlled. But in the Russian capital, TV Rain stands out as an island in a sea of Kremlin propaganda.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora