Saturday 23 September 2017

Children among dozens killed in Syrian air raid

Syrian refugee children play with snow in a Syrian Refugee camp on the Lebanese border town of Arsal
Syrian refugee children play with snow in a Syrian Refugee camp on the Lebanese border town of Arsal

Ruth Sherlock Beirut

Syrian government helicopters dropped barrels laden with explosives on residential districts of Aleppo, killing dozens of people, including 16 children.

It was the worst bombing raid on rebel-held areas in the city for more than six months. Residents said the attack targeted at least nine different districts, the TNT explosive wrecking shops, roads and entire apartment blocks.

"The doctors have been working all of today because what is happening in Aleppo is a massacre," said Dr Ammar Zakaria, from the Aleppo City Medical Council, a coordination body for field hospitals in opposition-held districts. "They are appealing for anyone with medical experience to come and help."

Aleppo, partly destroyed by two years of fighting, had settled into a stalemate, with government troops and rebels skirmishing over individual streets.

The recent winter weather had seen some of the quietest fighting during the whole civil war. But yesterday marked a dramatic escalation. The worst attack came at noon in al-Haydariyah area and neighbouring districts.

According to witnesses, military helicopters dropped several barrels laden with TNT, nails and other metal debris designed to spray out as hot shrapnel, destroying a busy bus station and a market.

One resident, who asked not to be named, said: "There is a big shopping bazaar there. There were no men in uniforms, only civilians."

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a London-based monitoring group, said that at least 22 people had died in the raids. Local residents said the toll had risen to more than 50.

In recent weeks, the people of Aleppo have been fighting a battle for survival against a bitter winter. With no heating or electricity, families have been forced to light fires on their balconies, often using rubbish for fuel.

Many of the two million Syrian refugees have suffered similar challenges, surviving snow drifts in makeshift tents. Yesterday, a Syrian toddler died when his parents' tent caught fire in a refugee camp in southern Lebanon. The child was alone at the time.

Irish Independent

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