Back to school in A-Raqqa: Regime air strikes kill 14


September 29, 2013

September 29, 2013

By Syria Direct Staff

AMMAN: Casualty figures continue to rise from a Sunday air strike by the Syrian air force on a high school in the northeastern city of A-Raqaa.

At least 14 people were killed, including 10 schoolchildren.

Just one week after local activists trumpeted the return of pupils to schools throughout the province, a regime plane dropped several bombs on the al-Tijariya high school as it was in session.

Zaid Al-Fares, a 24-year-old former pharmaceutical representative who became a citizen journalist when the revolution began, said the attacks serve as a form of psychological warfare.

Raqqa school

Photo courtesy of LCC – Raqqa.

“The regime is planting fear in the students,” he said, “because it is the beginning of their new school year.”

“The strike targeted the school, and it was directed at the students,” said Muhammad Abu al-Kassem, a 31-year-old media activist in A-Raqqa, who previously owned a makeup store. He added that the blasts hit the students as they were lining up to enter their classrooms.

“The regime is attacking to change the opinions of civilians, to show that the rebels cannot protect them and to bring them back into the regime’s arms,” Abu al-Kassem said.

“The regime dose not want schools to open in liberated areas, especially after the high-profile opening of this school” in rebel-controlled territory.

“The people are so scared, the parents are too afraid to send their children to school anymore,” said Abu al-Kassem.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights issued a statement strongly condemning the massacre, which it noted contradicts the “the Syrian regime’s pledge not to target schools and universities.”

The attacks come after weeks of sectarian violence between rebel groups vying for control of the city.

Last week, the Islamic State in Iraq and Al Sham (ISIS) destroyed crosses and raised their flag over two churches in the city.

In August, the province was the nexus of violence between ISIS and the Kurdish Party the PKK, which produced a major Syrian Kurdish exodus into Iraq.

Another media activist from A-Raqqa, Mohammed, a 24-year-old former literature student, reflected on the reasons for the regime’s attack on a city where opposition factions are warring against each other.

“A-Raqqa is a district whose countryside comprises one third of the nation of Syria, has oil wells and is Syria’s bread basket,” the activist said.

Despite its months-long status as a so-called “liberated area,” the province still suffers from a lack of transitional authority, an out-of-control ISIS presence, lawlessness and continued regime air bombardment.

“Unfortunately, the [Syrian National] Coalition has no role in A-Raqqa province. We asked them many times to establish an office  in A-Raqqa but there were no response,” Abu al-Kassem said.

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