Syrians Hold Anti-Government Protests After Shelling, Clashes

Posted August 17th, 2012 at 2:55 pm (UTC-5)
Leave a comment

Thousands of Syrians took to the streets Friday in anti-government demonstrations, as Syrian aerial forces targeted opposition hubs in the northern city of Aleppo and fought rebels in neighborhoods around Damascus.

VOA's Scott Bobb said he witnessed a demonstration in the northern town of Marea that was held in sympathy for the dozens of people killed or wounded this week when a Syrian jet bombed nearby Azaz.

“This one was particularly emotional because of the attack by airplanes on Wednesday against Azaz, which is 20 kilometers away, in which mostly women and children were killed.”

Bobb said residents are tense throughout northern Syria as they prepare for a three-day feast marking the end of Ramadan.

“They hear the jet planes coming overhead, you can't always see them and people get very scared, go outside, gather their children, look for safety. What a lot of people are doing in these towns is, at night they go out into the countryside and sleep outdoors away from the city, because that's where the Syrian government warplanes are bombing and where the helicopter gunships are attacking and where the artillery shells are being aimed.”

Syrian opposition activists said President Bashar al-Assad's forces shelled parts of Damascus and Aleppo Friday.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights also reported clashes between government forces and rebels near the main military airport in Damascus.

Rami Abd al-Rahman, director of the Britain-based Observatory, told VOA the latest violence came after at least 180 people were killed across the country on Thursday. He said the bodies of an additional 65 unidentified people were found in the town of Qatana, southwest of Damascus.

On Thursday, the U.N. Security Council said it is allowing the mandate for the U.N. observer mission in Syria to expire. The mandate ends Sunday, but the Council said it hopes to establish a political office in the battle-ravaged country.

The council's current president, French Ambassador Gerard Araud, said members agreed the conditions for extending the mission had not been met.

U.N. officials estimate that as many as 2.5 million Syrians are in need of aid as a result of the 18-month uprising against Mr. Assad.