BEIRUT

Middle East

Syria rebels target Hama airport, Iraq war delays aid

People gather around wreckage after a car bomb at Wadi al-Thahb neighbourhood in Homs city July 30, 2014, in this picture released by Syria's national news agency SANA. (REUTERS)

BEIRUT / UNITED NATIONS: Syrian rebels targeted a military airport in Hama province Wednesday, as the conflict raging next door in Iraq is delaying shipments of desperately-needed humanitarian relief.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, an anti-regime group based in Britain, said a coalition of Islamist militias caused an unknown number of casualties when they targeted the military facility.

“The rebels are now 9 kilometers away from Hama military airport, which they want to put out of action,” head of the Observatory Rami Abdel-Rahman told AFP Tuesday.

A rebel leader, Youssef al-Hasan, said the airport was important because “that is where the regime makes its barrel bombs.”

Barrel bombs have killed hundreds of civilians, especially in rebel areas of the divided northern city of Aleppo, in recent months.

The rebel leader said he was aware the regime was sending reinforcements to Hama province, but added: “They are stepping up their troop presence here, which will limit the regime’s capabilities in other areas.

The Observatory said the uptick in military actions, which included a separate rebel push against a village northwest of Hama, had prompted a large number of people to flee in the direction of the provincial capital.

Meanwhile, in Deir al-Zor province, a local tribe attacked ISIS militants in the village of Abu Humam after the group abducted and killed several members of the tribe.

The Observatory and local anti-regime activist groups reported that ISIS had recently been allowed to enter the area, located between Deir al-Zor and the Iraqi border, after agreeing to not attack locals, but then reneged on the agreement when they seized three members of the tribe.

When residents demanded their release Wednesday, ISIS summarily executed the three, prompting the tribe to attack and kill several members of an ISIS patrol, and then burn an ISIS headquarters in the area.

The Observatory said the attack killed at least 11 members of ISIS and activists posted a video purporting to show a local commander from the group after his capture.

Elsewhere, a bloody Eid al-Fitr holiday concluded with the killing of at least 12 people when regime forces targeted the Damascus suburb of Douma with artillery shells.

The Observatory said the casualty figure, which included a woman and two children, was likely to rise because many of the injuries at the vegetable market, where the shells exploded, were in critical condition.

Local activists put the death toll at 18, with dozens wounded, and said most of the victims were children. Also, an explosives-rigged vehicle exploded in an Alawite-majority neighborhood of the city of Homs, killing two people, state-run news reported.

Separately, the United Nations is pressing on with cross-border aid convoys from Turkey and Jordan but is reviewing plans to send relief from Iraq, the top UN aid official said.

The U.N. Security Council decided this month to set up the aid deliveries without the government’s consent from four crossing points to help millions of civilians in rebel-held areas.

U.N. humanitarian relief coordinator Valerie Amos said more relief trucks should be crossing into Syria “in the next few days” after a first nine-truck convoy from Turkey delivered food, shelter, water and sanitation supplies on July 24. “Given the volatile situation near the Iraqi border, we will review when we can start using the Yaroubieh crossing point,” Amos told the UN Security Council.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on July 31, 2014, on page 1.

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Summary

Syrian rebels targeted a military airport in Hama province Wednesday, as the conflict raging next door in Iraq is delaying shipments of desperately-needed humanitarian relief.

The Observatory and local anti-regime activist groups reported that ISIS had recently been allowed to enter the area, located between Deir al-Zor and the Iraqi border, after agreeing to not attack locals, but then reneged on the agreement when they seized three members of the tribe.

The Observatory said the attack killed at least 11 members of ISIS and activists posted a video purporting to show a local commander from the group after his capture.

The U.N. Security Council decided this month to set up the aid deliveries without the government's consent from four crossing points to help millions of civilians in rebel-held areas.


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