Middle East

Barrel bomb claims 18 lives near school in Deraa

Syrians reacts as they stand in the rubble following a reported air strike attack by government forces on the northern Syrian city of Aleppo on February 18, 2014. (AFP PHOTO / ALEPPO MEDIA CENTRE / FADI AL-HALABI)

BEIRUT: A “barrel bomb” strike near a school in Deraa killed at least 18 people Tuesday as the crude devices rained down on several other parts of the country.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory of Human Rights said the casualty figure was likely to rise, due to the severe nature of some of the injuries. It said five women and four children were killed by the bomb, near the village of Mzairib.

The Observatory said a barrel bomb was dropped on the Palestinian refugee camp in the town, and activists said at least 15 of the victims in Tuesday’s strikes on Deraa were Palestinians. Activists posted videos showing the devastation and residents’ attempt to retrieve survivors from under the rubble. In one particularly gruesome piece of footage a man holds the shredded body of a little girl killed in the Mzairib attack and shouts, “These are the results of the Geneva conference!”

Fighting between regime troops and rebels also took place in several parts of Deraa province, while barrel bombs struck the villages of Al-Jiza and Yaadouda, the Observatory said.

Helicopters also dropped barrel bombs on Daraya and Khan al-Shih, near Damascus, several rural areas of Qunaitra province, the Idlib town of Khan Sheikhoun and the city of Aleppo, where there were unconfirmed reports of civilian casualties after two neighborhoods were hit.

The Observatory said both regime troops and rebels suffered casualties during clashes in Aleppo – pro-opposition sources said rebels had retaken the suburb of Sheikh Najjar, which was seized by the regime over the weekend, while the Observatory said it wasn’t clear who controlled the area, and that fierce clashes took place around Safira, southeast of Aleppo.

Regime troops backed by Hezbollah fighters continued their shelling campaign against the town of Yabroud, near the border with Lebanon, as several airstrikes also targeted the area, killing a rebel commander, the Observatory said.

It added that government forces were mobilizing additional wave of reinforcements, while another rebel was killed by a regime artillery strike against the nearby village of Sahel.

Pro-opposition media outlets said rebels inflicted heavy casualties in the ranks of regime troops and Hezbollah fighters, while the Observatory said government troops, Hezbollah and National Defense paramilitaries suffered “confirmed” casualties, but did not provide a number.

In Raqqa province, fighting was reported between regime troops and rebels near the Tabqa military airport.

Meanwhile, in the campaign pitting an array of rebel groups against the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS) continued in Aleppo, Raqqa and Hassakeh provinces.

In rural Hassakeh in northeastern Syria, at least one ISIS was fighter was killed in the clashes, which prompted a number of residents to flee the area, the Observatory said.

In Raqqa, the main stronghold still under the control of ISIS, a man was executed on charges of planting an IED that recently targeted the hard-line group in the province’s capital city, while two men from the village of Ain Arous were executed for their role in fighting against ISIS militants, the Observatory said.

In Aleppo province, a mortar bomb that struck the Bab al-Hawa border crossing with Turkey was blamed on ISIS militants, the Observatory said.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on February 19, 2014, on page 8.




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