Blast Kills At Least 30 in Syria’s North

Posted September 20th, 2012 at 2:15 pm (UTC-5)
Leave a comment

A Syrian rights group says a blast in northeast Syria has killed at least 30 people and wounded dozens of others.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights quotes witnesses as saying the blast occurred when an air strike hit a fuel station in al-Raqqa province. The group's director says witnesses told him they saw at least 30 bodies, with the death toll likely to rise.

Earlier reports said at least 50 were killed in the blast.

Meanwhile, Syrian state television said a military helicopter that crashed near Damascus clipped the tail of a Syrian passenger plane in midair. The report said the passenger jet landed safely at Damascus International Airport with 200 people onboard.

VOA correspondent Elizabeth Arrott was in Damascus.

“It just speaks to the kind of chaotic situation, with helicopters flying around bombing these places just sporadically and without, evidently, very clear guidelines of where they are flying.”

Opposition activists said rebels shot down the helicopter. The Syrian state report did not include eye witnesses to the alleged incident.

Meanwhile, Arrott reported the Syrian government's Minister of National Reconciliation spoke to reporters in the capital Thursday.

“He too does not seem to have any great groundbreaking effort to be able to bring the two sides closer together. He spoke of this as a turning point. But again, it was very much that the rebels kind of just have to lay down their arms and say they are sorry, and that doesn't seem likely to happen.”

Arrott said that as children started their first days of school this week, people are still “very pessimistic” on the subject of reaching a solution to the crisis, which began in March of last year.

“Throughout the day, you can hear the shelling, various explosions not very far away, and meanwhile the kids are in class trying their best to carry on, but it's a very disturbing scene.”

She said classrooms are crowded in the al-Abbassiyin neighborhood as parents bring their children from nearby towns where fighting rages.

On Wednesday, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said the government and the opposition in Syria appear determined to resolve the crisis militarily. He told reporters that military means will not bring an answer, and the crisis should be resolved through political dialogue.

Mr. Ban said Syria will be a top issue as he meets with world leaders at the U.N. General Assembly, saying they must urgently address the situation.