PHOTO: Aftermath of Syrian air force’s barrel-bombing of al-Bab in Aleppo Province on Saturday (Getty)
Responding to both rebel advances and the growing challenge of the Islamic State, Syria’s air force killed scores of people on Saturday with barrel-bombing.
The Local Coordination Committees reported the deaths of 121 people, including 13 women and 9 children. Of the deaths, 84 were in Aleppo Province, with regime airstrikes on both an Islamic State-controlled town and a rebel-held section of Aleppo city.
At least 50 people were killed by barrel bombs on the town of al-Bab, northeast of Aleppo, which has been held by the Islamic State since autumn 2013. At least 10 were slain in the al-Sha’ar section of rebel-held Aleppo, with more deaths in other neighborhoods.
Scenes in the Firdous area of Aleppo:
Pulling victims from rubble:
At least 20 people died in Idlib Province, most in shelling of Balyoon.
The Syrian air force, which has killed thousands of people with barrel bombs, has been using the airstrikes since March in an unsuccessful attempt to hold back the rebel offensive in Idlib Province. The latest defeat was on Thursday, when Syrian forces withdrew from one of their last positions, the town of Ariha.
The Islamic State has also advanced, capturing the city of Palmyra in Homs Province and threatening further advances towards Homs city. They are also pressing the regime in Deir ez Zor city in eastern Syria and fighting Syrian forces in neighboring Hasakah Province.
On Saturday, the Islamic State fought Syrian troops in several locations in the province and challenged the regime control of Hasakah city, firing shells into the center and reportedly taking three checkpoints on the perimeter.
State media and pro-Assad accounts claimed the attacks were repelled, with heavy losses for the militants. They also claim that those killed in al-Bab were Islamic State fighters, rather than civilians.
The UN envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura, condemned the “indiscriminate” aerial attacks and said they were responsible for “the overwhelming majority of the civilian victims in the Syrian conflict”: “[It is] totally unacceptable that the Syrian air force attacks its own territory in an indiscriminate way, killing its own citizens, as it brutally happened today in Aleppo.”
Central Bank Devalues Syrian Pound to 271:1 vs. US Dollar
The Central Bank has set the exchange rate of Syrian Pound against the US dollar at 271:1.
The Syrian currency was about 50:1 vs. the dollar when the uprising began in 2011. It has been officially devalued sharply since the start of this year, when it was less than 200:1.
The unofficial rate of the Syrian Pound reached more than 300:1 in April amid military defeats and economic problems, its weakest position since US airstrikes were feared after the regime’s chemical weapons attacks of August 2014.
State Media: 27 Killed by Fuel Tank Explosion in Qamishli in Northeast
State news agency SANA says 27 people were killed when a burning fuel tank blew up in a clinic in Qamishli in northeast Syria on Sunday.
A “medical source” at Qamishli National Hospital said about 30 wounded people had been admitted. A Kurdish official said the explosion occurred as children were being vaccinated against polio.
Qamishli is in mainly-Kurdish territory but is controlled by regime forces.
Foreign Ministry Denounces European Union’s Extension of Sanctions
The Foreign Ministry has condemned the extension of sanctions against Syria by the Council of the European Union.
On Thursday, the Council renewed the sanctions imposed in 2011. More than 200 persons and 70 entities are subject to travel bans and asset freezes under the restrictions.
An “official source” at the Foreign Ministry said the decision shows the EU is “complicit in the conspiracy against Syria”, with “unfair” measures targeting the livelihood and health of the Syrian people.
Claimed Video Shows Army Abuse of Detainees in Ariha in Idlib Province
Claimed video, supposedly taken from the cellphone of a Syrian soldier, shows the military abusing detainees in Ariha in Idlib Province.
The footage shows soldiers shouting at men who are bound and stripped to their underpants. One of the troops smiles and laughs at the camera as the interrogation continues behind him.
Ariha was captured by rebels last Thursday. They claimed that, before withdrawing, Syrian forces executed both detainees and some of their own soldiers.
Video: Rebels Fighting Islamic State in Northeast Aleppo Province
Rebels battle the Islamic State in al-Hasia (see map), north of Aleppo city:
Rebel units and the Islamic State are fighting along a 25-km (16-mile) front north and northeast of Aleppo, effectively turning the contest for Aleppo Province into a three-sided war.
A media activist with the Islamic Front rebel bloc confirms that the Islamic State has taken the town of Sawran, near the Turkish border — the militants may be hoping to take the Azaz border crossing with Turkey:
#ISIS is still on the offensive in northern Aleppo. It has captured Soran town near Ezaz city
— Abdurrahman Saleh (@Abduslh) May 31, 2015
Rebel reinforcements moving into the area: