4 min read  | Idlib, Politics, Reports

Syria Direct: News Update 5-13-2014


May 13, 2014

‘Panic’ in Homs’s besieged al-Waer amidst bombs, snipers

The Syrian army bombarded the Homs district of al-Waer with heavy machine guns and barrel bombs early Tuesday morning, according to pro-opposition Sham News Network, as government forces continue their attempt to seize control of Homs’s last rebel-held neighborhood. Tuesday’s attacks come after the regime shelled the al-Jazeerat a-Sabaa neighborhood along al-Waer’s western flank on Tuesday, according to an al-Waer based activist who calls herself Judy al-Homsi, adding that government snipers have surrounded the district and are targeting civilians inside of it. “There are a huge number of women and children in al-Waer, and a constant state of panic due to snipers’ use of exploding cylinders,” al-Homsi told Syria Direct on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, the opposition Syrian National Coalition issued a statement condemning ongoing government attacks in northern Homs province. “The regime’s shelling of the town of Addar al-Kabira north of Homs, to where rebels of Homs retreated in line with a deal organized by the UN, makes evident the falsity of the truces that the Assad regime seeks to promote,” said Coalition representative Nasser Hariri Monday.

Last week, rebels inside the 13 neighborhoods of Old Homs surrendered themselves after nearly 700 days of government siege in exchange for safe passage to northern Homs province and the release of dozens of rebel-held prisoners; their surrender leaves al-Waer district, home to hundreds of thousands of displaced Syrians, the only remaining rebel-held district in Syria’s third largest city.

HRW reports five chlorine attacks in mid-April

Human Rights Watch released a report Tuesday citing “strong evidence” that Syrian government forces had launched five separate attacks using barrel bombs filled chlorine gas in three separate towns in northern Syrian, bolstering allegations made last week by the opposition Syrian National Coalition at press conference in Istanbul. “According to doctors who treated the victims and subsequently spoke to Human Rights Watch, these attacks killed at least 11 people and resulted in symptoms consistent with exposure to chlorine in nearly 500 other people,” HRW writes. Among the incidents was an April 21 attack on the town of Telmans in southeastern Idlib governorate “that killed 3 people and affected an estimated 133.”

HRW’s report largely corresponds with statements from the Syrian opposition’s Interim Defense Minister Asaad Mustafa at a May 7 press conference, in which he charged that government helicopters had dropped two chlorine-filled barrel bombs on Telmans on April 21, killing a six-year-old girl and affecting 400. Chlorine was not specifically included on the list of chemicals to be removed from Syria per a September 2013 agreement, but its use as a weapon is banned under an international treaty joined by Syria in October 2013.

Aleppo water crisis continues, Damascus blames ‘terrorists’

The Syrian Ministry of Foreign Affairs penned two letters on Monday to the United Nations’ Secretary General and the head of the Security Council blaming opposition forces for the ongoing water crisis in the city of Aleppo, which has been deprived of clean water for nine consecutive days. “Terrorists have prevented the pumping of water through the Suleiman al-Halabi station,” the ministry stated, “which is the main source of drinking water for the city—this has led to cutting access to water in all city neighborhoods.” The Foreign Ministry described the water blockade as criminal “collective punishment,” which has prevented three million inhabitants from accessing clean water because of their opposition to rebel groups.

Opposition sources, meanwhile, have quoted local officials as stating that a barrel bomb attack by regime forces had polluted the city’s water supply after striking Aleppo’s water facilities. “The reason for the water interruption goes back to regime shelling of the a-Sakhour Transfer Station with barrel bombs,” engineer Amr Mohammed told Syria Direct. Pro-opposition Halab News Network reported that between 200 and 300 cases of poisoning—due to drinking from dirty wells—have been registered at the Aleppo University Hospital.

Rights group: Regime killed 145 in April attacks on markets

The Syrian Network for Human Rights announced the publication of a new report on Monday detailing the Syrian government’s practice of bombing of public markets. The report, based on eyewitness testimony from seven residents of targeted areas, and on videos and pictures sent to the SNHR by activists, states that the regime has recently escalated its campaign of systematically bombing markets across Syria.

People run upon hearing a nearby plane bombing during a protest against Syrian President al-Assad in AleppoThe Syrian Network for Human Rights claims four attacks targeting Syrian markets in April killed 145 people. Photo courtesy of SNHR.

Between April 2 and May 1, government forces bombed four markets in Aleppo, Outer Aleppo and Outer Damascus, resulting in 145 dead and 210 wounded. Of the dead, SNHR claims that 141 were civilians. “There was no hint of discrimination or balance in this use of force, or any warning prior to the attacks,” charges SNHR. “All this is a clear violation of international humanitarian law, reaching the level of war crimes.”

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