Over 80 dead in Syria air raids as UN hu­man­i­tar­ian aid chief vis­its

The China Post - - INTERNATIONAL -

At least 82 peo­ple were killed in Syr­ian regime air raids Sun­day on a town out­side Damascus, a mon­i­tor said, as the U.N.’s top hu­man­i­tar­ian chief held talks with gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials.

The Syr­ian Ob­ser­va­tory for Hu­man Rights, a UK-based mon­i­tor­ing group, said at least 200 peo­ple were also in­jured in a string of 10 strikes on the re­bel­held town of Douma.

Civil­ians ac­counted for most of those killed, it said, and the death toll was ex­pected to rise fur­ther be­cause many of the wounded were in se­ri­ous con­di­tion.

Ob­ser­va­tory di­rec­tor Rami Ab­del Rah­man said lo­cals had gath­ered af­ter a first strike hit a mar­ket in the town to help evac­u­ate the wounded when the ad­di­tional raids hit.

At least six raids hit the mar­ket, with the oth­ers strik­ing nearby in the cen­ter of town, Ab­del Rah­man said.

A video posted online by ac­tivists of the af­ter­math of the at­tacks showed an in­ter­sec­tion strewn with rub­ble and twisted me­tal.

The fronts of sev­eral build­ings nearby ap­peared to have been sheared off by the force of the blasts, and many cars lay over­turned and crum­pled.

Douma lies in the rebel bas­tion of Eastern Ghouta, a re­gion out­side the cap­i­tal that is the reg­u­lar tar­get of gov­ern­ment air strikes.

Eastern Ghouta has been un­der gov­ern­ment siege for nearly two years, with regime forces tight­en­ing the block­ade since the start of 2015.

UN Aid Chief Visit

Amnesty

In­ter­na­tional

ear­lier in the week ac­cused the gov­ern­ment of com­mit­ting war crimes in Eastern Ghouta, say­ing its heavy aerial bom­bard­ment of the area was com­pound­ing the mis­ery cre­ated by the block­ade.

The group also ac­cused rebels in the area of war crimes for fir­ing rock­ets in­dis­crim­i­nately at the cap­i­tal.

Sun­day’s strikes on Douma came as new United Na­tions hu­man­i­tar­ian chief Stephen O’Brien held talks with gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials in Damascus on his first trip to Syria since be­ing ap­pointed.

O’Brien, who suc­ceeded Va­lerie Amos in May, met with For­eign Min­is­ter Walid Muallem, state media re­ported.

Of­fi­cial news agency SANA said O’Brien had ex­pressed will­ing­ness to work with the gov­ern­ment to al­le­vi­ate hu­man­i­tar­ian suf­fer­ing in the coun­try.

Close to 12 mil­lion peo­ple have been up­rooted by Syria’s con­flict, with over 4 mil­lion be­com­ing refugees and another 7.6 mil­lion in­ter­nally dis­placed.

On Satur­day, O’Brien met Syria’s deputy for­eign min­is­ter and vis­ited the cen­tral city of Homs, which is now mostly un­der gov­ern­ment con­trol.

“Vis­ited Homs to­day. Be­yond de­struc­tion of build­ings lies de­struc­tion of lives. Syria needs peace,” O’Brien wrote on his Twit­ter ac­count af­ter the visit.

“We are com­mit­ted to con­tin­u­ing to sup­port hu­man­i­tar­ian ef­forts in Syria. Equal ac­cess to all peo­ple in need (is) vi­tal for our work,” he added.

Fight­ing af­ter Cease-fire

Crum­bles

Else­where,

fierce

fight­ing raged in rebel- held Zabadani, near Damascus, and rebels rained rock­ets on two gov­ern­ment- held vil­lages in north­west­ern Syria af­ter the col­lapse of a cease- fire.

On Satur­day, a 72- hour truce for Zabadani and the vil­lages of Fuaa and Kafraya col­lapsed af­ter ne­go­tia­tors failed to reach a long- term deal.

Gov­ern­ment forces have been try­ing for weeks to cap­ture Zabadani, the last rebel bas­tion in the area along the Le­banese bor­der.

In re­sponse, rebels have fired hun­dreds of mis­siles at Fuaa and Kafraya, two Shi­ite- ma­jor­ity vil­lages that are the last regime­held civil­ian ar­eas in Idlib province.

Mean­while, a U. S.- trained rebel group said in a state­ment that al- Qaida af­fil­i­ate al- Nusra Front had freed seven of its mem­bers kid­napped two weeks ear­lier.

“We welcome this noble ini­tia­tive and urge the broth­ers of al- Nusra and hope that they will re­lease in the com­ing hours the group’s com­man­der and other fight­ers,” the state­ment stamped by the group’s com­mand said.

Di­vi­sion 30 is among the units re­ceiv­ing train­ing as part of a U. S.- led pro­gram op­er­at­ing from Tur­key that is in­tended to cre­ate a force to fight the Is­lamic State ji­hadist group.

But af­ter the first 54 mem­bers of the force en­tered Syria in July, al- Nusra kid­napped 13 of them, in­clud­ing a com­man­der, and at least three more killed in clashes with the ji­hadist group.

Al- Nusra ac­cused the force of serv­ing U. S. in­ter­ests.

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