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The colonel said the Free Syrian Army had led an attack on the government buildings before the explosions, but had withdrawn by the time the bombs went off.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

Tired of Waiting, South Africans Demand Change ‘Now’

With chronic poverty and lack of basic services largely fueling recent xenophobic attacks, many in Rainbow Nation say it’s time for government to act More

Challenges Ahead for China's Development Plans in Pakistan

Planned $46 billion in energy and infrastructure investments in Pakistan are aimed at transforming the country into a regional hub for trade and investment More

'Forbidden City' Revisits Little Known Era of Asian-American Entertainment

Little-known chapter of entertainment history captured in 80s documentary is revisited in new digitally remastered format and book 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.
Cinema That Crosses Borders Showcased at Tribeca Film Festivali
X
April 24, 2015 4:09 AM
Among the nearly 100 feature length films being shown at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival in New York City are more than 20 documentaries and features with international appeal, from a film about a Congolese businessman in China, to documentaries shot in Pakistan and diaspora communities in the U.S., to a poetic look at disaffected South African youth. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video Cinema That Crosses Borders Showcased at Tribeca Film Festival

Among the nearly 100 feature length films being shown at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival in New York City are more than 20 documentaries and features with international appeal, from a film about a Congolese businessman in China, to documentaries shot in Pakistan and diaspora communities in the U.S., to a poetic look at disaffected South African youth. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video UN Confronts Threat of Young Radicals

The radicalization and recruitment of young people into Islamist extremist groups has become a growing challenge for governments worldwide. On Thursday, the U.N. Security Council heard from experts on the issue, which has become a potent threat to international peace and security. VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports.
Video

Video Growing Numbers of Turks Discover Armenian Ancestry

In a climate of improved tolerance, growing numbers of people in Turkey are discovering their grandmothers were Armenian. Hundreds of thousands of Armenians escaped the mass deportations and slaughter of the early 1900's by forced conversion to Islam. Or, Armenian children were taken in by Turkish families and assimilated. Now their stories are increasingly being heard. Dorian Jones reports from Istanbul that the revelations are viewed as an important step.
Video

Video Migrants Trek Through Western Balkans to Reach EU

Migrants from Africa and other places are finding different routes into the European Union in search of a better life. The Associated Press followed one clandestine group to document their trek through the western Balkans to Hungary. Zlatica Hoke reports that the migrants started using that route about four years ago. Since then, it has become the second-most popular path into Western Europe, after the option of sailing from North Africa to Italy.
Video

Video TIME Magazine Honors Activists, Pioneers Seen as Influential

TIME Magazine has released its list of celebrities, leaders and activists, whom it deems the world’s “most influential” in 2015. VOA's Ramon Taylor reports from New York.
Video

Video US Businesses See Cuba as New Frontier

The Obama administration's opening toward Cuba is giving U.S. companies hope they'll be able to do business in Cuba despite the continuation of the U.S. economic embargo against the communist nation. Some American companies have been able to export some products to Cuba, but the recent lifting of Cuba's terrorism designation could relax other restrictions. As VOA's Daniela Schrier reports, corporate heavy hitters are lining up to head across the Florida Straits - though experts urge caution.
Video

Video Kenya Launches Police Recruitment Drive After Terror Attacks

Kenya launched a major police recruitment drive this week as part of a large-scale effort to boost security following a recent spate of terror attacks. VOA’s Gabe Joselow reports that allegations of corruption in the process are raising old concerns about the integrity of Kenya’s security forces.
Video

Video Japan, China in Race for Asia High-Speed Rail Projects

A lucrative competition is underway in Asia for billions of dollars in high-speed rail projects. Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Malaysia Thailand and Vietnam are among the countries planning to move onto the fast track. They are negotiating with Japan and the upstart Chinese who are locked in a duel to revolutionize transportation across Asia. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Bangkok has details.
Video

Video Scientists: Mosquitoes Attracted By Our Genes

Some people always seem to get bitten by mosquitoes more than others. Now, scientists have proved that is really the case - and they say it’s all because of genes. It’s hoped the research might lead to new preventative treatments for diseases like malaria, as Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Bible Museum Coming to Washington DC

Washington is the center of American political power and also home to some of the nation’s most visited museums. A new one that will showcase the Bible has skeptics questioning the motives of its conservative Christian funders. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Armenia and Politics of Word 'Genocide'

A century ago this April, hundreds of thousands of Armenians of the Turkish Ottoman empire were deported and massacred, and their culture erased from their traditional lands. While broadly accepted by the U.N. and at least 20 countries as “genocide”, the United States and Turkey have resisted using that word to describe the atrocities that stretched from 1915 to 1923. But Armenians have never forgotten.
Video

Video Afghan First Lady Pledges No Roll Back on Women's Rights

Afghan First Lady Rula Ghani, named one of Time's 100 Most Influential, says women should take part in talks with Taliban. VOA's Rokhsar Azamee has more from Kabul.
Video

Video Keeping Washington Airspace Safe Is Tall Order

Being the home of all three branches of the U.S. federal government makes Washington, D.C. the prime target for those who want to make their messages and ideas heard. Unfortunately, many of them choose to deliver them in unorthodox ways, including from the air, as a recent incident clearly showed involving a gyrocopter landing on the Capitol’s West Lawn. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video New Brain Mapping Techniques Could Ease Chronic Pain

From Boulder, Colorado, Shelley Schlender reports that new methods for mapping pain in the brain are providing validation for chronic pain and might someday guide better treatment.
Video

Video Hope, Prayer Enter Fight Against S. Africa Xenophobia

South Africa has been swept by disturbing attacks on foreign nationals. Some blame the attacks on a legacy of colonialism, while others say the economy is to blame. Whatever the cause, ordinary South Africans - and South African residents from around the world - say they're praying for the siege of violence to end. Anita Powell reports from Johannesburg.

VOA Blogs