News / Middle East

Explosions Rock Northern Syrian City, 28 Dead, 235 Wounded

An image grab taken off the official Syrian TV shows the bodies of the victims covered with blankets at the scene of a blast in Syria's second largest city of Aleppo, February 10, 2012.
An image grab taken off the official Syrian TV shows the bodies of the victims covered with blankets at the scene of a blast in Syria's second largest city of Aleppo, February 10, 2012.

Syrian state television says twin explosions at security compounds in northern Syria Friday killed at least 28 people and wounded 235 others as a government crackdown on opposition protests spiked nationwide.

The blasts targeted a military intelligence building and a security force base in Syria's northern city of Aleppo, which had been relatively quiet since the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad's regime erupted in March.

Television reports showed images of government buildings in central Aleppo with windows blown out and rubble strewn in the streets. It said that there were two blasts, one targeting a “military security” branch and a second targeting the “state security brigade” headquarters.

The reports are blaming armed terrorists for the attacks, showing live footage of mangled, bloodied bodies on the pavement outside the shattered buildings.

But rebel Colonel Riyadh al-Asaad, who heads the loosely-knit Free Syrian Army that is fighting government forces, denied responsibility for the blasts and accused the government.

The colonel said the Free Syrian Army had led an attack on the government buildings before the explosions, but had withdrawn by the time the bombs went off.

An opposition activist in Aleppo told Alhurra TV that he thinks the blasts were the work of Syria's secret police.  He claims the police blamed the Free Syrian Army by calling a French television station to say the rebels were behind the bombings.

In an interview with VOA's Kurdish Service, human rights activist, Mahmoud Hamdush, said from near Aleppo that government forces are blocking roads in and out of the city center to prevent people from traveling to Aleppo's suburbs where large protests are being held against the government.

Homs remains under siege

In Syria's third largest city, Homs, witnesses say heavy shelling targeted the Baba Amr district for a seventh day. Opposition videos showed the bodies of several children they say were killed by government shells.

Syria Neighborhoods


One witness in the outskirts of Homs says security forces opened fire on worshippers leaving a mosque, and that several people are reported to be injured.  

The activist told says that despite a relentless government assaults, rebels plans no surrender.

"I am, as an activist, being pursued after they issued a ruling to execute me immediately if I am arrested," said the man, who asked for anonymity and was interviewed via Skype. "Our colleagues are advising us not to turn ourselves in because the ruling stipulates that we will be executed."

Because of restrictions on reporting in Syria, VOA cannot confirm government or opposition reports.

The activist said supplies and food are running short in the Homs region.

"We are sharing whatever available from food and the humanitarian situation is so miserable that it can’t be described," he said. "While as youth we can manage, the kids and the elders cannot bear severe hunger. There [are] no medical supplies or milk for the kids and some bakers stopped making bread due to the shortage of wheat."

Another activist in Homs said that government attacks are not letting up and that even walking one block can be deadly.

"Every day is worse than the day before," he said of the assault, "more deaths, more injured, more destroyed buildings." He said hospitals are overflowing with the wounded.

Activists say hundreds of people have died since the offensive in Homs began early Saturday.

"Homs is becoming a ghost city," one of the activists told VOA on Friday. "No one is walking in the streets... Our situation is miserable."

Attacks nationwide

Opposition activists in Damascus also report heavy government shelling in the outer suburbs and a fire at a hospital in Douma.  Other reports tell of government attacks in several locations nationwide.

At a Damascus mosque, a cleric appointed with government backing claimed in a Friday prayer sermon that "outside forces" were responsible for sowing chaos and death in Syria.

Sheikh Ahmed Saleh said that money coming in from outside Syria is sowing chaos.  He said government opponents do not want reform, but are trying to destroy Syria.

Syria analyst Nadim Shehadi of Chatham House in Britain says the Syrian government is stepping up its military onslaught to show that the protest movement is not peaceful.

"What the government is trying to do is convey the message that Syria is going into a civil war and that this is no longer a non-violent or peaceful protest against the government, and that this will certainly frighten any outsiders from intervening and will convey the image of another Iraq," he said.

Sectarian divisions have been rising as killings have increased on both sides of the conflict. Pro-government forces are led by members of President Bashar al-Assad's Shi'ite Alawite minority. Syrian authorities have blamed what it calls "armed terrorists" for the revolt, and said they are responsible for several sectarian attacks in recent days.

Saudi response

Early Friday, Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah criticized the United Nations for failing to pass a resolution against Syria's crackdown on protests. Speaking on Saudi television, he said "there is no doubt that the confidence of the United Nations has been shaken."

China, which joined Russia in vetoing the U.N. resolution, said it wants to maintain contact with Syrian activists after an opposition delegation visited Beijing last week. Moscow, a staunch ally of Damascus, has insisted any solution to end the bloodshed must come from within Syria.

The 22-member league withdrew its monitors in late January to protest the Syrian government's continued crackdown on protesters calling for an end to Assad's 11-year autocratic rule. The observer mission had begun in December as part of an agreement with Damascus to halt the violence.

Arab League foreign ministers are due to meet in Cairo Sunday to discuss a new plan to send a joint U.N.-Arab League observer mission to Syria.

President Assad has pledged to assign his deputy to hold a dialogue with the opposition, but such groups have rejected talks with the government.

Turkey says its government is ready to host an international conference to support the Syrian people, either in Istanbul or another regional country. Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu is in Washington to meet U.S. congressional leaders and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for talks likely to focus on Syria.

Washington has been exploring the possibility of providing humanitarian aid to Syrians in cooperation with U.S. allies. Western powers and Arab nations have said repeatedly they do not want to intervene militarily in the conflict.

Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.

Join the conversation on our social journalism site - Middle East Voices. Follow our Middle East reports on Twitter and discuss them on our Facebook page.

You May Like

Video Americans, Tourists, Reflect on Meaning of Thanksgiving

VOA garnered opinions from several people soon after November 13 Paris attacks, which colored many of their thoughts

Video Thais Send Security Concerns Down the River

In northern Thailand, the annual tradition of constructing floating baskets to carry away the year’s bad spirits highlights the Loy Krathong festival

Video Tree Houses - A Branch of American Dream

Workshops aimed at teaching people how to build tree houses have become widely popular in America in recent years

This forum has been closed.
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Islamic State Unfazed by Losses in Iraq, Syriai
November 26, 2015 5:21 AM
Progress in the U.S.-led effort to beat Islamic State on its home turf in Iraq and Syria has led some to speculate the terror group may be growing desperate. But counterterror officials say that is not the case, and warn the recent spate of terror attacks is merely part of the group’s evolution. VOA National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more.

Video Islamic State Unfazed by Losses in Iraq, Syria

Progress in the U.S.-led effort to beat Islamic State on its home turf in Iraq and Syria has led some to speculate the terror group may be growing desperate. But counterterror officials say that is not the case, and warn the recent spate of terror attacks is merely part of the group’s evolution. VOA National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more.

Video Taiwan Looks for Role in South China Sea Dispute

The Taiwanese government is one of several that claims territory in the hotly contested South China Sea, but Taipei has long been sidelined in the dispute, overshadowed by China. Now, as the Philippines challenges Beijing’s claims in an international court at The Hague, Taipei is looking to publicly assert its claims. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.

Video Syrian Refugees in US Express Concern for Those Left Behind

Syrian immigrants in the United States are concerned about the negative tide of public opinion and the politicians who want to block a U.S. plan to accept 10,000 Syrian refugees. Zlatica Hoke reports many Americans are fighting to dispel suspicions linking refugees to terrorists.

Video After Paris Attacks, France Steps Up Fight Against IS

The November 13 Paris attacks have drawn increased attention to Syria, where many of the suspected perpetrators are said to have received training. French President Francois Hollande is working to build a broad international coalition to defeat Islamic State in Syria and in Iraq. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video US, Cambodian Navies Pair Up in Gulf of Thailand

The U.S. Navy has deployed one of its newest and most advanced ships to Cambodia to conduct joint training drills in the Gulf of Thailand. Riding hull-to-hull with Cambodian ships, the seamen of the USS Fort Worth are executing joint-training drills that will help build relations in Southeast Asia. David Boyle reports for VOA from Preah Sihanouk province.

Video Americans Sharpen Focus on Terrorism

Washington will be quieter than usual this week due to the Thanksgiving holiday, even as Americans across the nation register heightened concerns over possible terrorist threats. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports new polling data from ABC News and the Washington Post newspaper show an electorate increasingly focused on security issues after the deadly Islamic State attacks in Paris.

Video World Leaders Head to Paris for Climate Deal

Heads of state from nearly 80 countries are heading to Paris (November 30-December 11) to craft a global climate change agreement. The new accord will replace the Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change that expired in 2012.

Video Uncertain Future for Syrian Refugee Resettlement in Illinois

For the trickle of Syrian refugees finding new homes in the Midwest city of Chicago, the call to end resettlement in many U.S. states is adding another dimension to their long journey fleeing war. Organizations working to help them integrate say the backlash since the Paris attacks is both harming and helping their efforts to provide refugees sanctuary. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

Video Creating Physical Virtual Reality With Tiny Drones

As many computer gamers know, virtual reality is a three-dimensional picture, projected inside special googles. It can fool your brain into thinking the computer world is the real world. But If you try to touch it, it’s not there. Now Canadian researchers say it may be possible to create a physical virtual reality using tiny drones. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video New American Indian Village Takes Visitors Back in Time

There is precious little opportunity to experience what life was like in the United States before its colonization by European settlers. Now, an American Indian village built in a park outside Washington is taking visitors back in time to experience the way of life of America's indigenous people. Carol Pearson narrates this report from VOA's June Soh.

Video Even With Hometown Liberated, Yazidi Refugees Fear Return

While the northern Iraqi town of Sinjar has been liberated from Islamic State forces, it's not clear whether Yazidi residents who fled the militants will now return home. VOA’s Mahmut Bozarslan talked with Yazidis, a religious and ethnic minority, at a Turkish refugee camp in Diyarbakır. Robert Raffaele narrates his report.

Video Nairobi Tailors Make Pope Francis’ Vestments

To ensure the pope is properly attired during his visit, the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops asked the Dolly Craft Sewing Project in the Nairobi slum of Kangemi to make the pope's vestments, the garments he will wear during the various ceremonies. Jill Craig reports.

Video Cross-Border Terrorism Puts Europe’s Passport-Free Travel in Doubt

The fallout from the Islamic State terror attacks in Paris has put the future of Europe’s passport-free travel area, known as the "Schengen Zone," in doubt. Several of the perpetrators were known to intelligence agencies, but were not intercepted. Henry Ridgwell reports from London European ministers are to hold an emergency meeting Friday in Brussels to look at ways of improving security.

Video El Niño Brings Unexpected Fish From Mexico to California

Fish in an unexpected spectrum of sizes, shapes and colors are moving north, through El Niño's warm currents from Mexican waters to the Pacific Ocean off California’s coast. El Nino is the periodic warming of the eastern and central Pacific Ocean. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, this phenomenon thrills scientists and gives anglers the chance of a once-in-a-lifetime big catch. Faith Lapidus narrates.

Video Terrorism in Many Forms Continues to Plague Africa

While the world's attention is on Paris in the wake of Friday night's deadly attacks, terrorism from various sides remains a looming threat in many African countries. Nigerian cities have been targeted this week by attacks many believe were staged by the violent Islamist group Boko Haram. In addition, residents in many regions are forced to flee their homes as they are terrorized by armed militias. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Study: Underage Marriage Rate Higher for Females in Pakistan

While attitudes about the societal role of females in Pakistan are evolving, research by child advocacy group Plan International suggests that underage marriage of girls remains a particularly big issue in the country. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports how such marriages leads to further social problems.

VOA Blogs