x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 24 January 2018

Bombs shake Syria's commerical hub of Aleppo

As violence spreads, Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah says the world was losing confidence in the UN after Russia and China vetoed a Security Council resolution on Syria.

The scene of one of the blasts that rocked Syria's second largest city of Aleppo on Friday.
The scene of one of the blasts that rocked Syria's second largest city of Aleppo on Friday.

BEIRUT // Dozens of people were reported killed in Syria's second-largest city yesterday as explosions ripped through security compounds in what Syrian state media described as "twin terrorist attacks".

At least 28 people were killed and 235 injured in the blasts in Aleppo, according to government officials. State media reported that soldiers, civilians and children were among the dead and injured in the bombings, which targeted two security headquarters. Both buildings were badly damaged.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attacks.

As international powers grapple with how to deal with Syria's escalating crisis, Arab League foreign ministers convene in Cairo tomorrow to discuss a proposal to send a monitoring mission back into the country, after it was suspended last month.

Yesterday, Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al Saud said the world was losing confidence in the United Nations after Russia and China last week vetoed a Security Council resolution that sought to remove the Syrian president, Bashar Al Assad, and end the bloodshed.

"We all used to take pride in the United Nations, which used to bring us together and not divide us... but what took place does not augur well as world confidence in the United Nations has undoubtedly been shaken," King Abdullah said in a televised speech.

"We are going through scary days and unfortunately what happened at the United Nations is absolutely regrettable."

The attacks in Aleppo were the worst violence to Syria's commercial hub, which until recently had been largely on the periphery of the uprising that began last March.

But in recent weeks, the city has reportedly seen more demonstrations against the regime of Bashar Al Assad, as well as violence from security forces.

Yesterday's twin attacks in Aleppo followed similar bombings in Damascus in December and January. Opposition groups at the time cast doubt on the government's narrative of events - that terrorist groups were behind the blasts - and maintained that the regime had staged them.

Some opposition supporters were again quick to dismiss the government line that terrorist groups were responsible for the bombing in Aleppo.

The Local Coordinating Committees, a network of opposition activists, said at least 52 people were killed yesterday across the country, including 13 in Aleppo and 16 in Homs. These figures could not be independently confirmed. The group also said several of the deaths occurred when security forces shot at demonstrators in Aleppo.

In Homs, army tanks were reportedly deployed on the outskirts of several neighbourhoods that have been under attack for a week. Yesterday, there were reports of sporadic shelling and some activists expressed concern that a larger-scale offensive was imminent.

Homs has become the frontline of the fighting between government forces and the Free Syrian Army that supports the opposition's efforts to oust the Al Assad regime.

The bombing campaign against Homs, which started on the evening of February 3, has reportedly killed more than 300 people.

Government troops have bombarded districts including Baba Amr and Khalidiya with shells, while members of the rebel army have reportedly carried out guerilla attacks against security forces.

Activists in the city have said that supplies including of food and medicine were running critically low in some areas, while makeshift clinics set up to treat the wounded were overwhelmed.

The regime has continued to say that "terrorists" are responsible for the killing in Homs and elsewhere in the country.

Syria's state news agency, Sana, yesterday reported that "armed terrorist groups" blew up a number of "booby-trapped" houses in Baba Amr.

The report said the explosions were aimed at "terrifying citizens and to give the impression that the army is shelling the neighbourhood".

However, video posted on YouTube appears to show tanks firing at the area of Baba Amr yesterday.

Mohammed Hassan, an opposition activist in the city, said his area had sustained massive damage.

"There isn't one street without two buildings or more that are badly damaged from the shelling," he said.

Oppositions activists reportedly held a rally in the neighbourhood of Al Bayada on Thursday evening. Video posted on YouTube shows hundreds of young people dancing to songs sung by a young football player turned activist, Abdelbasset Sarout.

"You oppressor, go ... Great Homs, Syria will be free," he sang.


* With additional reporting by Reuters