Syrian fighter jets kill 25 in refugee camp

Mon, Dec 17, 2012, 00:00

Beirut – Syrian fighter jets bombed the Palestinian Yarmouk camp in Damascus yesterday, killing at least 25 people sheltering in a mosque in an area where Syrian rebels have been trying to advance into the capital, opposition activists said.

The attack was part of a month-long campaign by President Bashar al-Assad’s forces to eject rebels fighting to overthrow him from positions hemming in Damascus. It came a day after warplanes bombed rebels on the road to Damascus international airport.

Yarmouk, on the southern fringes of Damascus, falls within a swathe of territory running from the east to southwest of the Syrian capital from where rebels hope to storm into the main redoubt of 42 years of Assad family rule over Syria.

In the latest of a string of military installations to fall to the rebels, the army’s infantry college in northern Aleppo was captured on Saturday after five days of fighting, a rebel commander with the powerful Islamist Tawheed Brigade said.

Heavy fighting

Opposition activists said the deaths in Yarmouk, to which refugees have fled from other fighting in nearby suburbs, resulted from a rocket fired by a warplane hitting the mosque.

A video posted on YouTube showed bodies and body parts scattered on the stairs of what appeared to be the mosque.

The latest battlefield accounts could not be independently verified due to tight restrictions on media access to Syria.

It was the first reported aerial attack on Yarmouk since a popular uprising against Assad erupted 21 months ago and evolved, after he tried to smash it with military force, from peaceful street protests into an armed insurgency.

Syria is home to more than 500,000 Palestinian refugees, most living in Yarmouk, and both Assad’s government and the mainly Sunni Muslim Syrian rebels have enlisted and armed Palestinians as the uprising has mushroomed into a civil war.

Heavy fighting broke out 12 days ago between Palestinians loyal to Assad and Syrian rebels, together with a brigade of Palestinian fighters known as Liwaa al-Asifah (Storm Brigade).

Clashes flared anew after yesterday’s air strike between Palestinians from the pro-Assad Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command (PFLP-GC) and Syrian rebels together with other Palestinian fighters, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group.

Some PFLP-GC fighters were killed, the London-based Observatory said.

Opposition activists and the Observatory said many families were trying to escape the internal Yarmouk clashes.

Insurgents had first reported seizing the infantry college on Saturday, but the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said later that day there was still fighting going on.

The commander whose Tawheed brigade took part in the assault said the rebels had surrounded the college, located 16km (10 miles) north of Aleppo, Syria’s largest city, three weeks ago.

Forty thousand Syrians have now been killed in what has become the most protracted and devastating of the Arab popular uprisings that have toppled several dictators since early 2011. – (Reuters)