Friday, May 6, 2016

According to the Britain-based Syrian Observatory, no aircraft had flown over Sarmada refugee camp on Thursday

The Saudi-Arabian UN human rights chief said initial reports suggested a Syrian government plane was responsible for strikes on a refugee camp.
Source: AAP 7 MAY 2016

The Syrian military denied it had conducted air strikes on camps near the Turkish border on Thursday which killed at least 70 people, but the UN human rights chief said initial reports suggested a government plane was responsible.
The death toll from attack on the camp for internally displaced people near the town of Sarmada included women and children, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said, and could rise further because many people were seriously wounded.
"There is no truth to reports ... about the Syrian air force targeting a camp for the displaced in the Idlib countryside", the Syrian military said in a statement on Friday carried by state media.
Saudi-Arabia's Zeid Ra'ad al Hussein

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights {{Saudi-Arabia's Zeid Ra'ad al Hussein}} said the attacks were "almost" certainly a deliberate war crime. 
If that doesn't beat all for reputable reporting..
"Given these tent settlements have been in these locations for several weeks, and can be clearly viewed from the air, it is extremely unlikely that these murderous attacks were an accident," Zeid said in a statement.
"My staff, along with other organisations, will leave no stone unturned in their efforts to research and record evidence of what appears to be a particularly despicable and calculated crime against an extremely vulnerable group of people," he said.
"Initial reports suggest the attacks were carried out by Syrian Government aircraft, but this remains to be verified."
Footage shared on social media showed rescue workers putting out fires which still burned among charred tent frames, pitched in a muddy field. White smoke billowed from smouldering ashes, and a burned and bloodied torso could be seen.
Sarmada lies about 30km west of Aleppo, where a cessation of hostilities brokered by Russia and the United States had brought a measure of relief on Thursday.
Zeid said most of the people in the camps had been forced to flee their homes in Aleppo in February because of sustained aerial attacks there.

Russian & Syrian officials deny their planes hit refugee camp

BEIRUT — Russian and Syrian officials denied Friday that their aircraft struck a camp for people displaced by fighting in an airstrike that killed 28 the previous evening. The denials came as activists said a coalition of rebels and militants, including Syria's al-Qaida branch, seized a strategic village from pro-government forces near the contested city of Aleppo.
According to the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, some 73 fighters — 43 on the opposition side and 30 pro-government troops — have died since Thursday afternoon in the battle for the village of Khan Touman. The advance signals a reemergence of a powerful, ultraconservative coalition on the opposition's side in the Syria conflict.
A Syrian military official, speaking to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to the media, denied the army had carried out any operation against the Sarmada refugee camp on Thursday, where 28 people died, including women and children, and dozens were wounded. The official said all reports about the attack are false.
A Russian military official According to the Britain-based Syrian Observatory home to about 2,000 internally displaced people who fled the fighting from the surrounding Aleppo and Hama provinces over the past year.
Defense Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov said in remarks carried by Russian news agencies that the Russian military had closely studied data from an air space monitoring system and determined that no aircraft had flown over the camp on Wednesday or Thursday.
Konashenkov said the destruction seen on photographs and videos suggested the camp could have been shelled, whether intentionally or by mistake, from multiple rocket launchers that the Syrian al-Qaida affiliate, known as the Nusra Front, has been using in the area.
Meanwhile, renewed fighting broke out Friday around the village of Khan Touman, the Observatory reported. Fighter jets, presumed to belong to either Syria or its powerful ally Russia, were launching strikes on opposition positions.
Leading the opposition side was the coalition known as Jaish al-Fatah, or Army of Conquest, an ultraconservative group led by the Nusra Front, and the jihadi Jund al-Aqsa and Ahrar al-Sham. The Observatory said other non-jihadi factions were fighting at Khan Touman on the side of the coalition, as well.
The Army of Conquest seized Idlib, a strategic and symbolically important provincial capital, from government forces last year and threatened to make advances towards government strongholds on the Mediterranean coast and toward the capital, Damascus. Russia intervened militarily on the side of the government partly in response to that threat.
But the coalition is internally divided over who it considers enemies and how it rules areas under its control.
"The ... Jund al-Aqsa brigade is ideologically close to Daesh," said Britain-based Syrian activist Asaad Kanjo, using the Arabic acronym for the Islamic State group, a top rival of al-Qaida in Syria. Kanjo followed the coalition's politics when he was living in Saraqib, in Idlib province.
Both the Islamic State and the Nusra Front have been designated terror groups by the United Nations and were not included in a cease-fire that went into effect in late February.
The cease-fire revealed further divisions in the Army of Conquest. Jund al-Aqsa and Nusra Front fighters suppressed popular demonstrations across Idlib province against the black Jihadist flag, and moderate rebel factions seized on the discontent to try to sideline the militants within the opposition. The political shifts split the allegiances of the internally-divided Ahrar al-Sham group.
But the recent collapse of the cease-fire and resumption of hostilities in April appears to have reunified the anti-government opposition.
Khan Touman is just 4 miles from Aleppo, Syria's largest city and onetime commercial capital. It overlooks the main route between Damascus and Aleppo, parts of which remain under opposition control.
"It is part of the government's defensive line in south Aleppo," said Observatory's chief, Rami Abdurrahman.
Aleppo-area opposition media activist Bahaa al-Halaby said the opposition fighters took control of Khan Touman around 7 a.m. Friday morning.
Meanwhile, militant websites published photos said to be taken from the Shaer gas field district in central Homs province, showing Islamic State militants helping themselves to a large government weapons cache, including tanks and military vehicles.
The vital gas fields, which were in government hands, fell to the extremist fighters Wednesday.
In the central city of Hama, some 800 inmates — including political prisoners — continued their days-long strike as government forces threatened to storm the prison on Friday, the Observatory said. Authorities have cut electricity to the prison and are preventing food from getting in, the Observatory added.
The Opposition's High Negotiations Committee called on all international organizations and human rights groups to help political prisoners in the central prison of Hama.
Associated Press writer Albert Aji in Damascus, Syria, contributed to this report.

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