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Bombings, clashes as Syrian opposition seeks arms

September 04, 2012

DAMASCUS, Sept 3: A deadly car bomb tore through a mainly Christian Damascus suburb on Monday while Syrian warplanes pounded Aleppo province, killing dozens of people, as the opposition pleaded for arms and intervention.

The violence came as the chief of the Red Cross headed to Damascus on a humanitarian mission, his office said, and new UN-Arab League peace envoy to Syria Lakhdar Brahimi admitted his task is “nearly impossible”.

The high-profile visits come as violence escalates in Syrian flashpoints and the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported more than 5,000 people, mainly civilians, were killed in August alone.

A government air strike on a home in the heart of Aleppo killed an entire family, including seven children, witnesses told a correspondent in Syria's second city.

The bodies of the children were laid out under fly-ridden blankets in the back of a yellow pick-up truck outside the northern city's main hospital before a hurried funeral, the correspondent reported.

“This is all one family,” said tailor Hassan Dalati, who survived the raid on Al-Sultan street in the city of 2.7 million people.

A fighter jet also struck in the nearby town of Al-Bab, killing at least 10 men, six women and two children, with more unaccounted for beneath the rubble of levelled homes, said the Observatory.

The pre-dawn raid on a building being used as a shelter followed repeated over-flights by military aircraft during the night, residents said.

“We were sleeping at home when the first bomb struck. I made a run for the door when a second blast buried me,” said a barely conscious survivor, peppered with shrapnel from head to foot.

The army also pounded several districts of Aleppo city, the Observatory said, more than six weeks after the start of what Assad's regime warned would be “the mother of all battles” in the commercial hub.

The Observatory gave a preliminary toll of 84 people — 41 civilians, 26 soldiers and 17 rebel fighters — killed Monday in Syria after 132 people were killed the previous day.

The watchdog, which has a network of activists on the ground, also reported that a car bomb ripped through the mainly Christian and Druze suburb of Jaramana on Monday killing at least five people.

Another 27 people were injured in the blast, it said, adding that the attack struck the area of Al-Wehdeh on the edges of Jaramana.

The southeastern suburb was previously hit by a car bomb on August 28, when at least 27 people attending a funeral for two supporters of the Damascus regime were killed. “There is an increase of the use of car bombs in Syria,” the Observatory's Rami Abdel Rahman said.

In Madrid, the main opposition Syrian National Council appealed to the international community for weapons and urgent military intervention to defend civilians from such bombardments.

“We need a humanitarian intervention and we are asking for military intervention for the Syrian civilians,” SNC chairman Abdel Basset Sayda said after meeting Spanish Foreign Minister Jose Manuel Garcia-Margallo.

“I have the duty of asking for weapons that will allow us to defend against the Syrian armour and weapons that are killing civilians all the time,” he told a joint news conference.

Sayda said the Syrian conflict had now killed 30,000 people and forced millions from their homes, including more than three million internal refugees and 250,000 who had fled the country. Another 100,000 had been detained.

The plight of refugees is expected to be among the top priorities of Peter Maurer, the president of the International Committee of the Red Cross who was travelling to Damascus on Monday for a three-day visit.

Maurer would “discuss pressing humanitarian issues” during meetings on Tuesday with President Bashar al-Assad, Foreign Minister Walid Muallem and other ministers, the ICRC said in a statement.

“At a time when more and more civilians are being exposed to extreme violence, it is of the utmost importance that we and the Syrian Arab Red Crescent succeed in significantly scaling up our humanitarian response,” Maurer was quoted as saying.Jihad Makdissi, a spokesman for Assad's embattled government, announced late Sunday that newly appointed peace envoy Brahimi would “soon” travel to Damascus, expressing confidence “he will listen to us.” He gave no idea of when the visit would begin.

Brahimi however gave a deeply pessimistic view of the task ahead of him, in an interview with the BBC.

“I know how difficult it is — how nearly impossible. I can't say impossible — (it is) nearly impossible,” he said.

He said he was “scared of the weight of responsibility. People are already saying people are dying and what are you doing?”

Syrian Information Minister Omran al-Zoabi said on Monday that Brahimi's success depends on states such as Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar.

“The success of Lakhdar Brahimi does not depend on Syria,” said Zoabi.

“Brahimi's success depends on certain states — such as Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Turkey — respecting his mission, by closing their borders to armed men, and by ceasing to provide weapons,” he added.

According to the Observatory, more than 26,000 people have been killed in Syria since the revolt began in March last year — more than two-thirds of them civilians.—AFP