PHOTO: Man mourns over some of those killed in the Damascus suburb of Douma on Sunday
- Local Activists: Rebels Holding Out in Zabadani, Kill More Hezbollah and Assad Militia
- Video: US Airstrike on Jabhat al-Nusra Killed 13 Civilians in Idlib Province
- US to Withdraw Patriot Missile-Defense Batteries from Turkey
UPDATE 1630 GMT: A journalist reports, from a local doctor, that the number of wounded from Sunday’s regime airstrikes on Douma has passed 500:
Doctor from #Douma tells me 532 total wounded from yesterday's airstrikes, a third of them children. Over 100 needed full anesthetic surgery
— Kareem Shaheen (@kshaheen) August 17, 2015
UPDATE 0945 GMT: The UN’s Undersecretary General for Humanitarian Affairs, Stephen O’Brien, has now made a general statement following Sunday’s mass killing by the Assad regime in Douma — which occurred as O’Brien was meeting high-level officials in nearby Damascus (see original entry).
O’Brien referred to last week’s shelling of Damascus by rebels, who said they were aiming at military targets. He continued:
While I have been here, we have heard appalling reports of new airstrikes on the besieged area of Douma.
Yesterday’s airstrikes –– on the central market area –– caused scores of civilian deaths and
hundreds of people were injured. Hospitals are scrambling to treat them.
I am absolutely horrified by the total disregard for civilian life by all parties in this conflict.
Attacks on civilians are unlawful, unacceptable and must stop. I appeal to every party engaged in
violence and fighting to protect civilians and to respect international humanitarian law.
Syrian State TV removed O’Brien’s remarks, as they could point towards the Douma attacks — the edit is at the 1:15 mark:
UPDATE 0630 GMT: After killing more than 120 people in the Damascus suburb of Douma on Sunday, the Syrian air force has carried out four more airstrikes this morning, according to the pro-opposition Local Coordination Committees.
ORIGINAL ENTRY: Almost 200 people — many of them children — were killed by President Assad’s forces in bombing and shelling across Syria on Sunday.
In one of the deadliest assaults in months, more than 120 people died and more than 300 were wounded in the Damascus suburb of Douma when the Syrian air force hit targets that included a crowded vegetable market. At least nine vacuum bombs were dropped, in additional to the artillery shelling on the town.
Almost 100 have been identified and their names posted. The death toll is expected to rise, as many of the injured are in critical condition. Several people have already died because of the lack of adequate medical facilities.
Victims were buried in mass graves, in part because of regime bombardment of Douma’s cemetery.
Douma eyewitness to BBC:"we had to bury people in fives: one on top of the other, in layers… we couldn't find enough graves for everyone".
— Quentin Sommerville (@sommervillebbc) August 17, 2015
Douma has repeatedly been subjected to deadly bombing, in part because it is the base of the leading rebel faction Jaish al-Islam. On Saturday, the rebels had attacked army positions in nearby Harasta, including the Vehicle Directorate.
The attacks occurred as the UN’s Undersecretary General for Humanitarian Affairs, Stephen O’Brien, was meeting Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem in Damascus. The regime eagerly promoted the meeting: “O’Brien voiced readiness to cooperate with the Syrian government….His visit to Syria aims to think up a real conception of the Syrian government’ needs and its efforts to provide the humanitarian aid for the Syrian people.”
So far, O’Brien — who tweeted about his visit to Homs on Saturday, “Beyond destruction of buildings lies destruction of lives” — has made no comment on Sunday’s deaths.
— Lina Sergie Attar (@AmalHanano) August 16, 2015
State news agency SANA also does not mention the attacks; however, the death toll and images were enough to unsettle one fervent pro-Assad supporter on social media: “If this is true, I cannot defend this.”
The externally-based opposition Syrian National Coalition has called for strong international action over the attacks, criticizing the “lukewarm response” to date as a “contributing factor in the escalation of massacres against Syria’s civilians”.
One of 25 photos — many too graphic to be posted on EA — on an activist’s Facebook page:
A picture from the White Helmet rescue workers:
The scene of the attack, after bodies were taken away:
The collective burial of the victims:
A list of scores of videos of the attack and aftermath has been posted by Yalla Souriya.
The Syrian Air Force hit other areas in Damascus Province on Sunday, including Wadi Barada:
Local Activists: Rebels Holding Out in Zabadani, Kill More Hezbollah and Assad Militia
Local activists report that fighting is continuing in Zabadani, the besieged rebel-held town northwest of Damascus, following the end of a ceasefire last weekend.
The activists say that, despite “brutal shelling with all sorts of heavy weapons”, rebels launched a surprise attack killing about 12 Hezbollah fighters and Assad militiamen.
Sources in Zabadani report the Syrian military’s deployment of a new weapon, the Russian-made UR-77 armored vehicle. Originally designed to clear mines, the UR-77 can hurl plastic explosive for large detonations in crowded areas.
A Hezbollah-regime offensive has tried for more than six weeks to capture the town, taken by the Free Syrian Army in January 2012.
A 72-hour ceasefire ended last weekend, and rebels subsequently pulled out of talks discussing evacuation of Zabadani in return for evacuation of two regime enclaves north of Idlib city in northwest Syria. Ahrar al-Sham, leading negotiations for the rebels, said Iran — speaking for the Assad regime — was pursuing “sectarian cleansing” with the requirement that all civilians leave Zabadani.
The rebel coalition Jaish al-Fateh has shelled the enclaves of al-Fu’ah and Kafraya today, while the regime has carried out air attacks on nearby areas with vacuum missiles.
Rebels also reported regime airlifts of supplies and ammunition to al-Fu’ah and Kafraya. They claimed that residents in Idlib Province are calling on Jaish al-Fateh to take control of both villages.
Video: US Airstrike on Jabhat al-Nusra Killed 13 Civilians in Idlib Province
Video testimony that a US unmanned drone, trying to hit a car with fighters from the Islamist faction Jabhat al-Nusra in late July, killed 13 civilians in northern Idlib Province near the Turkish border:
US to Withdraw Patriot Missile-Defense Batteries from Turkey
US officials said Sunday that two Patriot missile-defense batteries will be withdrawn from southern Turkey this autumn.
The officials gave multiple reasons for the move, including that they need “critical modernization upgrades”, that the risk of missile attacks by the regime has fallen since the Patriots were deployed in 2013, that they are needed elsewhere to defend against threats from Iran and North Korea.
A local activist offered a different explanation: the step is a caution by the US Government that its Turkish counterpart should limit both its attacks on Kurds and its attempt to overthrow the Assad regime.
The US Embassy maintained that the batteries and their 250 troops could be rushed back to Turkey “within one week” if needed.
The Obama Administration decided on the withdrawal months ago, but delayed notifying Turkey until Ankara agreed in late July to let a US-led coalition use the Incirlik Airbase for strikes on the Islamic State.
The base was also been used for an attack on a Syrian rebel faction last week.