First Published: 2013-01-16

 

Mourning in Syria as rebels, regime trade blame for campus attack

 

Universities shut doors across Syria to mark day of mourning called after twin blasts tore through Aleppo campus while students were writing exams.

 

Middle East Online

War spares nobody

DAMASCUS - Universities were closed across Syria on Wednesday to mark a day of mourning called after twin blasts tore through an Aleppo campus while students were writing exams, killing at least 87 people.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights warned that the toll from Tuesday's blasts in Syria's war-ravaged northern commercial capital could rise beyond 100, making it one of the bloodiest attacks in Syria's 22-month conflict.

No one has claimed responsibility for the blasts, but the government and rebels have blamed each other.

Opposition activists said government jets had carried out an air strike on the campus, but a military official said ground-to-air missiles fired by rebels had fallen short.

State television said "terrorists launched two rockets" at the campus.

The university lies in a government-controlled area of the battleground northern city, which has been wracked by violence since last summer when regime forces launched an offensive to halt a rebel advance.

The Local Coordination Committees, a network of grassroots activists, said the timing of the attack showed that the blasts were "part of a systematic plan to inflict as many casualties as possible in the university.

The Observatory on Wednesday updated its earlier toll of 82 people dead.

"The number of people killed in twin blasts on Tuesday has risen to 87," it said.

"That number is likely to rise to 100 as body parts continue to be identified," the Britain-based monitoring group said, adding that around 150 people were wounded, some of them critically.

Immediately after the Aleppo University blast, the education minister called for a nationwide "day of mourning" and said President Bashar al-Assad ordered the "immediate rebuilding of damaged parts of the university," state television reported.

Elsewhere in Syria on Wednesday, the army sent reinforcements to the town of Daraya, southwest of Damascus, as warplanes and rockets bombarded the rebel enclave, said the Observatory, describing the violence there as the worst in several weeks.

"The army's assault is insanely violent. The shelling is continuous, it has been so intense in the past hours. There are many injured people," said Daraya-based activist Abu Kinan.

Clashes raged in the town meanwhile, pitting rebels against advancing troops.

"Every time troops take a new position, the rebels attack them there. That is what makes the clashes so fierce and widespread," said Abu Kinan.

Amateur video posted on the Internet by activists showed a massive tower of smoke rising above the now mostly empty town, which once boasted a population of about 200,000.

Daraya has become one of the rebel Free Syrian Army's main strongholds in Damascus province, after previously being held up as a symbol of peaceful activism against Assad's regime.

Assad's brother and elite Fourth Division chief Maher al-Assad, "has given orders to take control of Daraya even if that should mean destroying whatever buildings remain in the town," according to Observatory director Rami Abdel Rahman.

An army official quoted by pro-regime daily Tishreen downplayed the intensity of operations against Daraya's rebels.

"Military operations have been ongoing for two months in search of gangs," said the official, adding that he had no information on any generalised offensive on Daraya.

More than 60,000 people, mostly civilians, have been killed in Syria's conflict, according to the United Nations, while the Observatory says it has documented more than 48,000 dead.

On Tuesday alone, at least 207 people were killed in violence across Syria, including 137 civilians, said the Observatory.

 

Saudi Crown Prince calls Iran supreme leader 'new Hitler'

Lebanon’s Hariri suspends resignation

Syrian opposition agrees to send united delegation to Geneva talks

Revolt in US State Department over child soldier law

Outrage in Iraq over 'child marriage' bill

Hezbollah hails PM's suspension of resignation

Syrian opposition aims for unity at talks in Riyadh

Egypt police kill 3 Islamists in shootout

Turkey unsure if Assad to be part of Syria political transition

Migrant arrivals from Libya down since EU deal

Palestinian factions leave Cairo talks with little progress

Sudan’s Bashir looks to Putin for ‘protection’ from US aggression

China, Djibouti forge 'strategic' ties

IS propaganda channels fall quiet in 'unprecedented' hiatus

Kremlin to create Syria congress despite Turkey ‘reservations’

Netanyahu berates deputy minister for 'offensive' remarks on US Jews

Egypt PM heads to Germany for medical treatment

Egypt destroys 10 SUVs carrying arms on Libya border

Iraq launches operation to clear last IS holdouts from desert

Saudi-led coalition to reopen Yemen airport, port to aid

Turkey court rules to keep Amnesty chief in jail

France calls for UN meeting on Libya slave-trading

Egypt detains 29 for allegedly spying for Turkey

WTO panel to hear Qatar’s complaint against UAE blockade

Three dead as diphtheria spreads in Yemen

Israel seizes explosive material at Gaza border

Activists call for release of UK journalist held by IS

Bahrain upholds jail sentence for activist

Iraq attacks at lowest since 2014

Turkey continues crackdown in post-coup probe

Hariri back in Lebanon

Putin to hold Syria peace talks with Erdogan, Rouhani

US carries out air strikes against IS in Libya

Divided Syria opposition meets in Riyadh

Lebanon's Hariri in Egypt ahead of return home

Rebels say Sanaa airport 'ready to run' after coalition bombing

Greece to amend historic sharia law for Muslim minority

Turkey to ask Germany to extradite top coup suspect

Car bomb in northern Iraq kills at least 24

Morocco bans bitcoin transactions

13 million Syrians need aid despite relative drop in violence

Sudan urged to improve plight of Darfur's displaced people

Brain drain means Syria can’t recover for a generation

Palestinians close communication lines with Americans

Anti-IS coalition strikes drop to lowest number