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The colonel said the Free Syrian Army had led an attack on the government buildings before the explosions, but had withdrawn by the time the bombs went off.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 Genome Initiative Urgently Works to Freeze DNA Before Species Go Extinct

Smithsonian senior research botanist Vicki Funk says ultimate goal is 'trying to get one-half of the diversity of plant life on Earth at the genus level in two years' More

Video Russia Accused of Abusing Interpol to Pursue Opponents

Report from member of British think tank says Russian extradition requests keep targets from traveling More

US Lawmakers Weigh Turkish Anti-terror Moves

Turkey’s two-pronged campaign against Islamic State militants, Kurdish PKK forces provokes mixed reactions on Capitol Hill 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.
Russia Accused of Abusing Interpol to Pursue Opponentsi
X
Henry Ridgwell
July 28, 2015 9:53 PM
A British pro-democracy group has accused Russia of abusing the global law enforcement agency Interpol by requesting the arrest and extradition of political opponents. A new report by the group notes such requests can mean the accused are unable to travel and are often unable to open bank accounts. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Russia Accused of Abusing Interpol to Pursue Opponents

A British pro-democracy group has accused Russia of abusing the global law enforcement agency Interpol by requesting the arrest and extradition of political opponents. A new report by the group notes such requests can mean the accused are unable to travel and are often unable to open bank accounts. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Genome Initiative Urgently Moves to Freeze DNA Before Species Go Extinct

Earth is in the midst of its sixth mass extinction. The last such event was caused by an asteroid 66 million years ago. It killed off the dinosaurs and practically everything else. So scientists are in a race against time to classify the estimated 11 million species alive today. So far only 2 million are described by science, and researchers are worried many will disappear before they even have a name. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Scientists: One-Dose Malaria Cure is Possible

Scientists have long been trying to develop an effective protection and cure for malaria - one of the deadliest diseases that affects people in tropical areas, especially children. As the World Health Organization announces plans to begin clinical trials of a promising new vaccine, scientists in South Africa report that they too are at an important threshold. George Putic reports, they are testing a compound that could be a single-dose cure for malaria.
Video

Video Special Olympics Athletes Meet International Friends

The Special Olympics are underway in Los Angeles, California, with athletes from 165 countries participating in an event that gives people with intellectual disabilities the chance to take part in an international competition. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports that for athletes and their families, it's also an opportunity to make new friends in an international setting.
Video

Video 'New York' Magazine Features 35 Cosby Accusers

The latest issue of 'New York' magazine features 35 women who say they were drugged and raped by film and television celebrity Bill Cosby. The women are aged from 44 to 80 and come from different walks of life and races. The magazine interviewed each of them separately, but Zlatica Hoke reports their stories are similar.
Video

Video US Calls Fight Against Human Trafficking a Must Win

The United States is promising not to give up its fight against what Secretary of State John Kerry calls the “scourge” of modern slavery. Officials released the country’s annual human trafficking report Monday – a report that’s being met with some criticism. VOA’s National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more from the State Department.
Video

Video Iran Nuclear Pact Wins Few New US Congressional Backers

Later this week, President Barack Obama returns from a trip to Africa to confront a U.S. Congress roiled by the nuclear accord with Iran, an agreement that has received the blessing of the U.N. Security Council. Days of intensive lobbying and testimony by top administration officials have won few new congressional supporters of the pact. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports.
Video

Video Washington DC Underground Streetcar Station to Become Arts Venue

Abandoned more than 50 years ago, the underground streetcar station in Washington D.C.’s historic DuPont Circle district is about to be reborn. The plan calls for turning the spacious underground platforms - once meant to be a transportation hub, - into a unique space for art exhibitions, presentations, concerts and even a film set. Roman Mamonov has more from beneath the streets of the U.S. capital. Joy Wagner narrates his report.
Video

Video Europe’s Twin Crises Collide in Greece as Migrant Numbers Soar

Greece has replaced Italy as the main gateway for migrants into Europe, with more than 100,000 arrivals in the first six months of 2015. Many want to move further into Europe and escape Greece’s economic crisis, but they face widespread dangers on the journey overland through the Balkans. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Stink Intensifies as Lebanon’s Trash Crisis Continues

After the closure of a major rubbish dump a week ago, the streets of Beirut are filling up with trash. Having failed to draw up a plan B, politicians are struggling to deal with the problem. John Owens has more for VOA from Beirut.
Video

Video Paris Rolls Out Blueprint to Fight Climate Change

A U.N. climate conference in December aims to produce an ambitious agreement to fight heat-trapping greenhouse gases. But many local governments are not waiting, and have drafted their own climate action plans. That’s the case with Paris — which is getting special attention, since it’s hosting the climate summit. Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at the transformation of the French capital into an eco-city.
Video

Video Racially Diverse Spider-Man Takes Center Stage

Whether it’s in a comic book or on the big screen, fans have always known the man behind the Spider-Man mask as Peter Parker. But that is changing, at least in the comic book world. Marvel Comics announced that a character called Miles Morales will replace Peter Parker as Spider-Man in a new comic book series. He is half Latino, half African American, and he is quite popular among comic book fans. Correspondent Elizabeth Lee reports from Los Angeles.
Video

Video Critics of Japan Defense Policy Focus on Okinawa

In Okinawa, many locals have long complained that Tokyo places an unfair burden on the tiny island by locating most of Japan's U.S. military bases there. As Japan's government moves toward strengthening and expanding the country's defense policies, opponents of those plans are joining local protesters in Okinawa, voicing concern about where the country is headed. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from Okinawa.
Video

Video IS Uses Chemical Weapons in Syrian Attack

Islamic State militants have added a new weapon in their arsenal of fear: chemical weapons. VOA Kurdish service reporter Zana Omer was on the scene within hours of a recent attack in Hasakah, Syria, and has details of the subsequent investigation, in this report narrated by Miguel Amaya.
Video

Video Historic Symbol Is Theme of Vibrant New Show

A new exhibit in Washington is paying tribute to the American flag with a wide and eclectic selection of artwork that uses the historic symbol as its central theme. VOA’s Julie Taboh was at the DC Chamber of Commerce for the show’s opening.

VOA Blogs