Wednesday, 30 April 2014


Also on Tuesday, Human Rights Watch issued a report documenting what it said were at least 85 barrel bomb attacks by the government in Aleppo since Feb. 22, when the United Nations Security Council passed a unanimous resolution calling on all parties to stop the use of barrel bombs and other indiscriminate weapons on civilian areas. Two of the attacks, the report said, hit clearly marked government hospitals.
The report came a day before a planned Security Council meeting to discuss compliance with the resolution, which also called for unimpeded humanitarian aid access, a request that rights groups say has been basically ignored.
Officials with the group that monitors compliance with the treaty banning chemical arms, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, said in a statement after a closed meeting at its headquarters in The Hague that the Syrian government had agreed to accept a mission investigating suspected chlorine attacks and would provide security for such a mission.
Ahmet Uzumcu, the director general of the group, said he hoped the mission would start next week, according to a European diplomat who attended the meeting. The session was also punctuated by complaints about delays in eliminating Syria’s toxic arms under an agreement that averted American airstrikes on Syria after sarin gas attacks last August near Damascus. All the arms are scheduled to be destroyed outside the country by June 30, but 7.5 percent remain in Syria.
“I think all of us expected to be at a very different stage of the effort than we are today,” Robert P. Mikulak, the American ambassador to the monitoring group, said in remarks posted on the State Department’s website, adding that the Syrian government had “delayed the operation at every opportunity.”
The government has denied carrying out the suspected chlorine attacks in the village of Kfar Zeita in central Hama Province, blaming them on the Qaeda-linked insurgent group the Nusra Front. Government opponents say recent suspected chlorine gas attacks there and in other insurgent-held areas were carried out by helicopters, which only the government possesses.
They charge that Mr. Assad’s forces are defiantly carrying out new chemical attacks using arms not listed in Syria’s declaration of its stockpiles last year, allegations that the United States and France have said they are taking seriously.
Chlorine is a common industrial chemical not banned by the Chemical Weapons Convention that Syria signed last year. But the treaty bans using any chemicals as weapons.
On Tuesday morning, mortar shells struck the Shaghour neighborhood in Damascus, killing at least 14 people and wounding 86, according to state news media. The attack, one of the deadliest mortar strikes in central Damascus, hit a school of Islamic jurisprudence where some students are children.
Hours later, a car bomb hit a largely pro-government neighborhood in Homs, killing at least 40 people, according to state news media and residents. Another explosion, either from a rocket or a second car bomb, according to conflicting reports, later struck the same area, hitting those who had gathered to help.
No group immediately took responsibility, but some antigovernment activists attributed the attack to the Nusra Front, which has claimed similar bombings.
Mustafa Aboud, a neighborhood official who recently survived a car bomb just yards from his office in the adjacent Zahra neighborhood of Homs, said in a telephone interview that the area hit was a busy civilian neighborhood. “There’s kindergartens, primary and intermediate schools, no military headquarters,” he said.
Photographs from the scene showed blackened bodies. In Talbiseh, one of the few remaining insurgent-held areas in Homs Province, Hassan Abu Noa, an antigovernment fighter, declared himself “really happy” and called members of the Nusra Front “heroes” for killing people in a pro-government area.
“Let them grieve and feel the same sadness that we feel,” he said via Internet chat. “Don’t think that I am an angry animal. I am just someone who lost everything because of Bashar.”

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