Saturday, November 19, 2016
Friday, November 18, 2016
Medics forced to take babies in incubators to building’s basement after hospital was hit by bomb in latest attack on Syria’s largest city
A medic inside the children’s hospital as it came under attack. Photograph: Mahmoud Al Fani/Independent Doctors AssociationLink
The only children’s hospital in besieged Aleppo is out of action after being bombed as it treated victims of a chlorine gas attack, forcing staff to evacuate babies in incubators and other patients injured over days of fierce bombardment.
There are currently only four functioning hospitals left to serve around 250,000 civilians living in opposition-held areas, which have been under intense attack since the Syrian government and its Russian backers launched a new offensive on Tuesday.
There were so many airstrikes across Aleppo that the White Helmets teams which rescue survivors from rubble and put out fires said they were struggling to reach all the bomb sites. “[The city] is a mess,” said rescuer Ibrahim al-Haj.
The UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said 18 different neighbourhoods were hit dozens of times and at least four people had been killed.
The latest assault on Aleppo is part of a wider attack on Syrian rebels launched from the ground, the air and the sea, with a Russian aircraft carrier firing missiles from off the Syrian coast. It hits Aleppo just as the siege starts to bite hard.
Medical and food supplies stockpiled in preparation are now dwindling after months without being restocked and, with winter closing in, the people trapped in Aleppo face “a very bleak moment”, a senior UN humanitarian official warned.
The children’s hospital, which was also hit on Thursday, was forced to evacuate as its doctors treated victims of the chlorine attack who were struggling to breathe.
“We are moving the children’s hospital because it has been hit twice this week and is considered a full-on target,” the Independent Doctors Association said. “We took the decision to evacuate it today, to relocate the staff and patients elsewhere.”
It is believed the bomb was a vacuum missile, fired by Syrian government forces, the IDA said. Footage shot by an al-Jazeera reporter who was covering the aftermath of the chlorine gas attack showed the hospital plunged into darkness.
Doctors and nurses used torches and mobile phones as they rushed to collect babies from their incubators, wrap them in blankets and take them to a basement office, where they were lined up together for a little extra warmth. One nurse broke down sobbing on a colleague’s shoulder.
Fourteen babies were later driven through the shelling to another location so their treatment could be restarted, one of the paediatricians confirmed. “As we drove out with the ambulance, warplanes were firing and artillery were shelling,” he said by text message. “But thank God we were not hurt.”
Bombing raids on the city have frequently targeted medical facilities, which have moved underground and sometimes shifted location in response.
The Russians and Damascus deny deliberately targeting civilian infrastructure, but attacks on hospitals, schools, markets and other non-military targets have been a regular feature of the war. The World Health Organization said it has already recorded 126 attacks on health facilities in 2016.
Syria’s largest city, and its cultural and economic hub before the war, Aleppo is now the last major urban stronghold of rebels fighting president Bashar al-Assad, and its fate is considered a bellwether for the future of the civil war.
The ferocity of bombing raids on the city is widely believed to be the start of a new push to retake it and may pave the way for ground attacks, although state troops have often struggled in close urban combat with rebel forces.
Instead Assad’s forces have relied on cutting off cities, bombing rebels to the negotiating table and starving civilians who support them into submission. Those who have clung on in opposition-held Aleppo through years of war now fear they face a similar fate.
“My understanding is that virtually all warehouses are now empty and tens of thousands of families are running out of food and all other supplies,” UN humanitarian adviser Jan Egeland told Reuters. “So this is a very bleak moment, and we are not talking about a tsunami here, we are talking about a manmade catastrophe from A to Z.”
The UN planned convoys with aid for 1 million Syrians in besieged or hard-to-reach areas this month, but so far not one convoy has reached its destination, Egeland said. A relief plan which would allow medical workers and supplies into east Aleppo and evacuation of the sick and wounded has not been endorsed by either side in the conflict.
International outrage at the indiscriminate bombing has been growing, but revulsion in the west did did little to temper the onslaught. Rebels fear theelection of Donald Trump as the next US president will further weaken their chances of relief.
The next US leader has made clear he wants to focus primarily on fighting against Isis, and is open to working with Assad and Russia, whose forces are currently pounding East Aleppo.
Assad said Trump would be a natural ally if he sought to combat terrorists, an epithet that the Syrian president uses to describe all of the opposition.
Charities working in Aleppo called on Americans to lobby their politicians to push harder for the siege to be lifted.
“We must all come together and place pressure on our governments to lift the siege on besieged areas ... and allow for food and medical supplies to enter immediately,” the head of the White Helmets and the Syrian American Medical Society, which supports hospitals in Aleppo, wrote in the Washington Post.
“We are asking you to mobilize, place pressure on your governments and demand that the people of Syria be granted the supplies they urgently need.”
Thursday, November 17, 2016
Evidence Contradicts Russian Denial
(Beirut) – Analysis of satellite imagery provides additional verification that damage to a school complex in the village of Haas in Idlib on October 26, 2016, was caused by airstrikes carried out by the joint Russian-Syrian military operation in Syria, Human Rights Watch said today in a letter to the Russian Defense Ministry. The complex included a kindergarten, an elementary school, two middle schools, and a secondary school, witnesses reached by telephone said. The attacks also hit other nearby civilian infrastructure.
The Russian Defense Ministry denied that the attacks on the opposition-controlled town of Haas took place, on the basis of two still frames it released from footage from a surveillance drone of the school complex. The military rejected a November 6 Human Rights Watchreport on the attacks that was based on interviews with witnesses. The report found that the strikes on Haas killed dozens of people, mostly schoolchildren. But the drone footage presented by the Russian Defense Ministry shows, and even marks, damage that matches the damage visible in the satellite imagery analyzed by Human Rights Watch. The Human Rights Watch report was also based on reviews of several videos of the attack and an interview with one of the videographers.
Satellite imagery of Haas taken on November 5 shows four damage signatures consistent with airstrikes, including two impacts on adjacent schools that are part of the school complex, a third on an intersection 100 meters to the north, and the fourth on two buildings approximately 100 meters east of the schools next to an orchard. Human Rights Watch examined imagery from April 22, before the recent attack, which did not show any damage on the school complex.
The satellite imagery shows that strikes hit two sites within the school complex and partially destroyed the schools’ courtyard walls and several smaller buildings within the complex. In one of these two strikes, buildings across the street were also destroyed.
The damage found in the satellite imagery is consistent with multiple published videos and photographs of the attacks. A video filmed by the Kafranabel Media Center, a pro-opposition group, and published on YouTube on October 26, showed the descent and explosion of a parachute-retarded munition. Human Rights Watch determined that the munition hit the school complex in Haas by matching landmarks in the video with the satellite imagery.
Another video posted by the media office of the Revolutionary Forces of Syria includes one segment showing an SU-24 aircraft flying at medium altitude. A second segment, filmed from the same vantage point, shows a column of smoke rising from buildings in the distance and an object falling, causing an explosion. The landscape and buildings visible in the video appear to fit with satellite imagery of Haas. Only the Russian and Syrian militaries conduct airstrikes in Syria using SU-24 series aircraft.
Parachute-retarded munitions have been used by the Syrian air force dating back to November 2012 and have also been used during the joint Russian-Syrian military operation that began in September 2015. In this case, it appears that the bombs have been detonated in the air, close to the ground, to maximize the damage created by the blast effect of the weapon. Bombs that are detonated in the air in this way do not create a crater in the ground, as is characteristic of bombs that detonate on impact.
The satellite imagery analyzed by Human Rights Watch is also consistent with footage of the schools filmed by a Russian surveillance drone on October 27. The Russian Defense Ministry has repeatedly claimed that the two stills from the drone footage it released are evidence that no airstrikes occurred, because they do not show damage to the roofs of the school buildings or craters from aerial bombs nearby.
But the drone footage does show damage to two schoolyards that is consistent with the above-ground detonation of a blast or enhanced blast munition. One of the still frames even marks the site of damage resulting from an airstrike over one school compound. In the second frame, damages to a second school compound are partially obscured underneath the white crosshairs of the drone’s surveillance system.
Damages identified in the satellite imagery are further consistent with multiple other published videos including a video posted to YouTube by the Syrian Revolution Network, an opposition-affiliated group, showing significant blast damage to the courtyard wall of one of the schools, school complex buildings, and the facades of several of the buildings inside the school complex; a video published by Al Jazeera showing damage to at least two school buildings; an AFP photograph of a damaged classroom; and a video by SMART newsthat shows extensive damage in two other locations outside the school complex.
“The Russian Defense Ministry should stop trying to deny clear evidence of airstrikes on schools and ensure that Russian and Syrian forces are not attacking these schools,” Van Esveld said. “Russia’s account in which no bombs fell and no schoolchildren were killed is cynical and yet another reminder of the need for accountability in Syria.”
A Teacher’s Account of the Airstrikes on the Schools in Haas
Human Rights Watch researchers previously spoke to seven witnesses to the attacks in Haas. On November 11, “Marwa,” a teacher at a boys’ school in the complex who asked that her real name not be published, described her experience of the attacks in a phone conversation with Human Rights Watch.
The school complex includes a boys’ school separated by a road from a girls’ school to the south east.
“And after that one there’s a kindergarten for little kids that was targeted in an airstrike three years ago after the Syrian army retreated from the town,” Marwa said. “And in between there’s an elementary school… They are separated by a road that goes through them. More [children and teachers] died from the girls’ school because when they went outside they were more exposed. In the boys’ school we could run towards the west.”
The airstrikes began when she was teaching her third class session, at around 10:10 a.m., Marwa said.
I heard a plane in the sky and noticed, from the window, a missile [sic bomb] falling. I ducked and told the students to duck. At first, they started laughing, saying “it’s not going to hit us.” They didn’t know what was about to happen.
The first bomb exploded outside the school compound, and the children “jumped to the windows to watch what happened,” Marwa said. She said she saw a white plane, and a white bomb with a parachute.
I warned them and we all ducked. The second [bomb] fell on the wall of another school east of us. Our window was shattered during the blast and the children panicked. They grabbed me and started screaming. I was really, really scared. We went to the corridor since it’s more shielded. All the other teachers on the same floor gathered their [students] there. Each teacher had 10 or 15 children around her. They were all screaming.
The third bomb “fell on our school,” and wounded one child in the arm, a second child in the chin, and left a third child on the floor, bleeding, she said. A teacher carried the boy outside.
Our nerves broke down. Some students with me panicked and kept asking to flee. I was hesitating because we could still hear the planes outside. The fourth strike caused so much smoke and dust that we could barely see again. I told my students to hold each other’s hand, and we went outside. On our way out, we found that the strike had been on the school’s entrance. Bodies were on the ground. We didn’t know what we were stepping on.
As they left the school complex, “people started screaming that there was a fifth strike,” and they took shelter in a home nearby, where a “little girl was screaming, pleading for help. She couldn’t walk. So me and other teachers started yelling for the civil defense to come take her.” Marwa said she heard other bomb explosions, all within 20 minutes of the first attack. “We kept running from one home to another,” but bombs killed people inside the schools as well as those who fled, “because the airplanes also targeted the roads and the homes outside.”
Marwa feared that the attacks had harmed her two sons and her daughter, who were attending schools in the complex, and that when the mosque issued a call for people to identify the bodies of children, “I was crying, I had a nervous breakdown” due to her anxiety. She searched for her childrens’ bodies in the hospital because “I wasn’t expecting that they would be alive. What we saw, the bodies on the ground… no one would survive this.” One of Marwa’s relatives identified a girl’s corpse as that of her daughter. “He told me she was wearing a black outfit. But that day she was wearing jeans and a sweater. And then she arrived. She was hiding at an old woman’s house until the planes left. She’s safe now.” Her boys were also safe, she said.
Marwa identified five teachers who were killed in the attacks, including staff at the boys’ school, a math teacher in the girls’ school, and an English teacher in the elementary school. The schools are not functioning now, she said, and the “teachers who can still work are teaching the children in some designated homes.”
“There was no armed presence around the schools. Had there been, we wouldn’t have been teaching on that day,” Marwa said.
Wednesday, November 16, 2016
Posted by Zarathustra at 10:50 AM
Ambulance driver and at least two children among at least 20 dead after night of attacks on rebel-held sections of Syrian city
Rescuers and civilians inspect a destroyed building in the Syrian village of Kfar Jales following airstrikes by Syrian and Russian warplanes. Photograph: Omar Haj Kadour/AFP/Getty Images
Rescuers and civilians inspect a destroyed building in the Syrian village of Kfar Jales following airstrikes by Syrian and Russian warplanes. Photograph: Omar Haj Kadour/AFP/Getty Images
Jet fighters and helicopters bombing east Aleppo hit a children’s hospital and a blood bank on Wednesday, as medics and patients sheltered in the basement waiting for the hours-long assault to end.
An ambulance driver and at least two children were among at least 20 civilians reportedly killed after a night of fierce attacks on rebel-held sections of Syria’s largest city. Another 47 people were reportedly injured.
The bombardment, which continued into Wednesday, is widely believed to mark the start of a push by Bashar al-Assad, Syria’s president, and his backers, including Russia and Iran, to crush the opposition in their last urban stronghold.
“A horrible day for the children’s hospital. Me and my staff and all the patients are sitting in one room in the basement right now, trying to protect our patients,” the centre’s director, Dr Hatem, said in a message posted on Facebook. “We are trying to leave the basement but we can’t because of all the aircraft still in the sky. Pray for us please.” They were still trapped underground early in the afternoon.
The children’s hospital, which carries out about 4,000 consultations a month, was one of six medical centres bombed in Syria over the past 48 hours, according to a charity that supports them. It was not the first time it was attacked.
“Like all the surrounding hospitals in eastern Aleppo it has been hit multiple times this year alone, putting 2016 on track to becoming the worst year of hospital attacks on record,” the Independent Doctors Association said.
The blood bank was only a few hundred metres away and narrowly escaped anairstrike a few weeks earlier. It is the only big blood supply centre left in Aleppo. A car used to transport supplies was destroyed.
The targeting of civilians and medics in Aleppo in particular has fuelled international outrage and growing pressure on Damascus to halt the bombing.
But opposition forces are now bracing for an intensified campaign on the city, against the backdrop of a geopolitical landscape dramatically changed by the election of Donald Trump as the next US president.
On Tuesday Assad described Trump as a potential “natural ally” if the president-elect fulfilled a campaign promise to fight terrorism.
Doctors said many people were under the rubble after a bombardment that included barrel bombs – cylinders packed with explosives dropped often inaccurately from helicopters and usually targeting civilian areas.
“Horror is back to Aleppo,” said Abdulkafi al-Hamdo, a teacher in the city, in a text message. Audio recording from inside the city captured the sounds of intense bombardment and shelling.
Ibrahim Abu al-Laith, a civil defence official, told Reuters there were more than 40 airstrikes on the Shaar area of the city alone, where the hospital and blood bank were located. “Today the bombardment is very, very fierce,” he said.
Russia has denied involvement in the air raids so far on the city, but said it had launched strikes on the provinces of Idlib and Homs on Tuesday from its aircraft carrier the Admiral Kuznetsov, stationed off the Syrian coast.
The aircraft carrier’s arrival in a highly publicised trip from Russia’s ports to the Mediterranean was widely seen as a sign that Moscow was ready to double down on the campaign to reclaim Aleppo for the government.
Whole districts of a city that was once Syria’s most vibrant have been virtually abandoned over years of intense street fighting. Many parts of the east have been bombed to rubble and are being starved by a slowly tightening siege.
A semblance of normal life continues in west Aleppo, and regaining full control of the city would be a huge boost for forces loyal to Assad, for its symbolic value and because it is the only key urban area still controlled by the opposition.
Assad’s forces, backed by Iranian and other Shia militias and Russian air power, have used a policy of bombing the opposition to the negotiating table while starving the communities that support them into surrender in several Syrian cities. They appear to be deploying the same tactics in Aleppo.
The situation in Aleppo has long been seen as a bellwether for the broader civil war in Syria, and the current onslaught is within the context of surging momentum for the Assad regime after Moscow’s intervention in the war last year.
The opposition fears that the Trump administration will abandon America’s covert but limited support for the rebellion, allowing the Kremlin a free hand to crush it. Trump said during the election campaign that he intended to focus on destroying Islamic State.
In his first reaction to Trump’s election victory, Assad struck a cautiously upbeat note, saying the president-elect would be a natural ally if he sought to combat terrorists, an epithet that the Syrian president uses to describe all of the opposition.
“We cannot tell anything about what he’s going to do, but if … he is going to fight the terrorists, of course we are going to be ally, natural ally, in that regard with the Russian, with the Iranian, with many other countries,” he told Portugal’s RTP state television, speaking in English.
“I would say this is promising, but can he deliver?” Assad added.
Tuesday, November 15, 2016
Monday, November 14, 2016
Sunday, November 13, 2016
Erdogan has proven that he is a useless scarecrow and that Turkey is nothing but a paper tiger, that can't be relied upon. I feel really sorry for Syrians who counted so much on Erdogan and Turkey.