Saturday 1 October 2016

Civilians hit by rockets and sniper fire in Isil massacre

Louisa Loveluck in Cario

Published 27/06/2015 | 02:30

A picture taken from the Turkish side of the border in Suruc, Sanliurfa province, shows Turkish soldiers standing guard (front) as Syrian Kurds wait behind the barbed wired on the Syrian side after they fled the Syrian town of Kobane, yesterday.
A picture taken from the Turkish side of the border in Suruc, Sanliurfa province, shows Turkish soldiers standing guard (front) as Syrian Kurds wait behind the barbed wired on the Syrian side after they fled the Syrian town of Kobane, yesterday.

The Isil attack on the Syrian city of Kobane on Thursday amounted to one of the group's largest massacres in the country's civil war, a monitoring group has said. According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, the death toll from violence in the border city and surrounding area had reached 146 by yesterday morning.

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The group's director, Rami Abdulrahman, said it was the biggest single massacre of civilians by Isil since the killing of hundreds of members of the Sunni Muslim Sheitaat tribe in eastern Syria last year.

Eyewitnesses to the massacre said civilians were targeted on the streets with rockets and sniper shots, or executed in their homes.

Isil's bloody attacks on Kobane and the northeastern city of Hasakeh began on Thursday morning, and experts suggest the double-pronged assault was intended to divert attention from losses in its eastern heartlands.

In Hasakeh, the attack sparked the exodus of 60,000 residents, according to the UN. In photographs posted online, streams of families could be seen leaving on foot, clutching bags crammed with belongings.

Hasakeh is divided into zones controlled by the government and the Kurdish authorities. It has previously played host to waves of refugees from elsewhere as they sought shelter from the violence of Syria's four-year-long civil war.

But yesterday, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said an estimated 50,000 people have now been displaced within the city itself, and that a further 10,000 have left northwards towards Amuda town, close to the Turkish border. It warned that up to 200,000 people could eventually leave the area, amounting to two thirds of the pre-war population.

This week the UN warned that it was running "dangerously low" on money to support people forced from their homes in Syria, saying that only a quarter of the $4bn needed to tackle the crisis in 2015 had been received.

The shortfall has meant that 1.6 million refugees have had their food assistance cut this year, while 750,000 children are not attending school, according to the UN high commissioner for refugees (UNHCR) Antonio Guterres.

Syria's multi-faceted civil war has all but torn the country apart - more than 230,000 people have died since President Bashar al-Assad's forces first sought to suppress anti-government protests in March 2011.

According to the Syrian Network for Human Rights, there have been 56 major massacres to date, 49 of which were carried out by government forces or allied militia.

Irish Independent

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