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The colonel said the Free Syrian Army had led an attack on the government buildings before the explosions, but had withdrawn by the time the bombs went off.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

Multimedia Obama Defends Immigration Action

Obama says with his executive action on immigration, enforcement resources will be focused on 'felons, not families; criminals, not children' More

US-Led Airstrikes in Syria Kill Over 900: Monitoring Group

British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says the toll includes more than 50 civilians, five of them women and eight of them children More

Report: Obama Broadens US Combat Role in Afghanistan

The New York Times says resident Barack Obama has signed a classified order extending the role of US troops in Afghanistan for another year More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
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.
New Skateboard Defies Gravityi
X
November 21, 2014 5:07 AM
A futuristic dream only a couple of decades ago, the hoverboard – a skateboard that floats above the ground - has finally been made possible. While still not ready for mass production, it promises to become a cool mode of transport... at least over some surfaces. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video New Skateboard Defies Gravity

A futuristic dream only a couple of decades ago, the hoverboard – a skateboard that floats above the ground - has finally been made possible. While still not ready for mass production, it promises to become a cool mode of transport... at least over some surfaces. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Impact US Oil Extraction

With the price of oil now less than $80 a barrel, motorists throughout the United States are benefiting from gas prices below $3 a gallon. But as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the decreasing price of petroleum has a downside for the hydraulic fracturing industry in the United States.
Video

Video Tensions Build on Korean Peninsula Amid Military Drills

It has been another tense week on the Korean peninsula as Pyongyang threatened to again test nuclear weapons while the U.S. and South Korean forces held joint military exercises in a show of force. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from the Kunsan Air Base in South Korea.
Video

Video Mama Sarah Obama Honored at UN Women’s Entrepreneurship Day

President Barack Obama's step-grandmother is in the United States to raise money to build a $12 million school and hospital center in Kogelo, Kenya, the birthplace of the president's father, Barack Obama, Sr. She was honored for her decades of work to aid poor Kenyans at a Women's Entrepreneurship Day at the United Nations.
Video

Video Gay Evangelicals Argue That Bible Does Not Condemn Homosexuality

More than 30 U.S. states now recognize same-sex marriages, and an increasing number of mainline American churches are blessing them. But evangelical church members- which account for around 30 percent of the U.S. adult population - believe the Bible unequivocally condemns homosexuality. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports that gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender evangelicals are coming out. Backed by a prominent evangelical scholar, they argue that the traditional reading of the bible is wrong.
Video

Video Ebola Economic Toll Stirs W. Africa Food Security Concerns

The World Bank said Wednesday that it expects the economic impact of the Ebola outbreak on the sub-Saharan economy to cost somewhere betweenf $3 billion to $4 billion - well below a previously-outlined worst-case scenario of $32 billion. Some economists, however, paint a gloomier picture - warning that the disruption to regional markets and trading is considerable. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Mexico Protests Escalate Over Disappearances

Protests in Mexico over 43 students missing since September continue to escalate, reflecting growing anger among Mexicans about a political system they view as corrupt, and increasingly tainted by the drug trade. Mounting outrage over the disappearances is now focused on the government of President Enrique Pena Nieto, accused of not doing enough to end insecurity in the country. More from VOA's Victoria Macchi.
Video

Video US Senate Votes Down Controversial Oil Pipeline - For Now

The U.S. Senate has rejected construction of a controversial pipeline to transport Canadian oil to American refineries. The $5 billion project still could be approved next year, but it faces a possible veto by President Barack Obama. As VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, the pipeline has exposed deep divisions in Congress about America’s energy future.
Video

Video Can Minsk Cease-fire Agreement Hold?

Growing tensions between government troops and separatists in eastern Ukraine further threaten a cease-fire agreement reached two months ago in the Belarusian capital of Minsk. Critics of U.S. policy in Ukraine say it is time the Obama administration gives up on that much-violated cease-fire and moves toward a new deal with Russia. VOA's Scott Stearns has more.
Video

Video Chaos, Abuse Defy Solution in Libya

The political and security crisis in Libya is deepening, with competing governments and, according to Amnesty International, widespread human rights violations committed with impunity. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video US Hosts Record 866,000 Foreign Students

Close to 900,000 international students are studying at American universities and colleges, more than ever before. About half of them come from Asia, mostly China. The United States hosts more foreign students than any other country in the world, and its foreign student population is steadily growing. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Ferguson Church Grapples with Race Relations

Many white residents of Ferguson, Missouri, say they chose to live there because of the American Midwest community's diversity. So, they were shocked when a white police officer killed an unarmed black teenager in August – and shaken by the resulting protests and violence. Some local churches are leading conversations on how to go forward. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports.

All About America

AppleAndroid