Army pounds east Damascus

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Army pounds east Damascus

DAMASCUS — Syria’s army on Tuesday pounded parts of the eastern belt of Damascus where rebels claim to have downed an army helicopter, a watchdog said, as world outrage mounted over a “massacre” near the capital.

By (AFP)

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Published: Tue 28 Aug 2012, 6:12 PM

Last updated: Fri 3 Apr 2015, 2:04 PM

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported fierce shelling of the eastern neighbourhoods of Zamalka, Qaboon, Jubar and Ein Tarma, while a rebel commander told AFP the army had also launched an offensive targeting the rural Ghuta area east of Damascus.

The Observatory also reported heavy shelling by regime forces Tuesday of rebel bastions in the commercial capital Aleppo as well as in the northwestern town of Kafr Nabal in Idlib province, where it said at least 10 people died.

The latest violence follows a bloody Monday in which 190 people were killed across Syria, according to the Britain-based Observatory, and comes amid growing global concern over the plight of civilians caught up in the brutal civil war.

The chorus of criticism is being led by UN chief Ban Ki-moon, who on Monday demanded an independent inquiry into the killings of hundreds of civilians in the Syrian town of Daraya last week.

The UN chief was “shocked” by the reports of hundreds of bodies found in Daraya, southwest of Damascus, that was subjected to a five-day assault by pro-government forces last week, his spokesman Martin Nesirky said.

“The secretary general is certainly shocked by those reports and he strongly condemns this appalling and brutal crime,” Nesirky told reporters.

“Where hundreds of civilians have been killed in Daraya, this needs to be investigated immediately in an independent and impartial fashion,” the spokesman added.

The Observatory said on Tuesday that another seven unidentified bodies were found in Daraya, bringing to around 340 the number of corpses retrieved from the town after what activists described as brutal five-day onslaught of shelling, summary executions and house-to-house raids by pro-government forces.

The Sunni Muslim town of some 200,000 people is seen as a stronghold of opposition to the minority Alawite-led regime of President Bashar al-Assad.

Grisly videos issued by opposition activists showed dozens of charred and bloodied bodies lined up in broad daylight in a graveyard in Daraya, and others lying wall-to-wall in rooms in a mosque.

State media said the operation had “purified terrorist remnants” in Daraya, while pro-government television Al-Dunia said “terrorists” had carried out the killings.

  • ‘Atrocity on a new scale’—


The White House said the reports of the Daraya massacre were the latest evidence of Assad’s “wanton disregard for human life.”

Britain said it would be “an atrocity on a new scale” and the European Union said it was “totally unacceptable.”

Tuesday’s shelling of east Damascus comes a day after rebels from the Free Syrian Army claimed to have downed a military helicopter in Qaboon during relentless shelling, heavy fire by combat helicopters and fierce clashes between troops and rebels.

State television said the aircraft crashed near a mosque.

Pro-regime Al-Watan newspaper on Tuesday reported that the army had “cleansed” the Aleppo neighbourhood of Al-Izaa, adjacent to Saif al-Dawla district, of armed men and seized large quantities of arms and ammunition.

“This opens the way for cleansing the neighbourhood of Zabdiyeh and seizing the Saif al-Dawla and Sukari districts,” it said.

The army took back Salaheddin from the rebel fighters in early August, but pockets of resistance remain, while the opposition still controls Saif al-Dawla and Sukari.

Elsewhere, seven men were killed by government troops in the central province of Hama, while another 10 were killed in shelling in the town of Kafr Nabal in northwest Idlib province, the Observatory said.

Activists say around 25,000 people have been killed since the uprising against Assad’s rule broke out in March last year, while the United Nations says at least 200,000 people have fled to neighbouring countries and another 2.5 million are in need inside Syria.

Underscoring the growing humanitarian crisis, Turkey, which is struggling to cope with an influx of 80,000 refugees, said another 9,000 were now massed at the border awaiting for more camps to open.

Turkey has called for establishment of protected buffer zones inside Syria to receive people displaced by the conflict and prevent them flooding over the border and French President Francois Hollande said Monday that discussions were under way with allies on the possibility.

“We are working ... (on) the initiative of buffer zones proposed by Turkey,” Hollande said, adding: “We are doing so in coordination with our closest partners.”

Hollande urged the Syrian opposition to form a “provisional, inclusive and representative” government, adding: “France will recognise the provisional government of the new Syria as soon as it is formed.”

But Washington cautioned against moving ahead too rapidly with a provisional government, saying more work needed to be done to ensure that it was broad-based and representative.

Some analysts have voiced concern that the opposition is dominated by Sunni hardliners who could seek revenge against Assad’s minority Alawite community, threatening prolonged sectarian bloodshed.

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