Syria bloodiest day hangs over UN meet

2012-09-27 16:03
(Picture: AFP)

(Picture: AFP)

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Damascus - More than 305 people were killed in the bloodiest day of Syria's 18-month revolt, a rights group said on Thursday, as Washington urged action from the "paralysed" UN Security Council.

The UN refugee agency, meanwhile, warned that as many as 700 000 Syrian refugees could flee the war-torn nation by the end of 2012 as it stepped up calls for emergency funding.

As fighting raged in several parts of Syria, unknown attackers blew up an oil pipeline in the northeast province of Hasaka, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported.

Wednesday was the deadliest day of the Syrian conflict as more than 305 people died across the country, including 14 in twin bomb attack against the headquarters of the armed forces in the heart of Damascus, the Observatory said.

It said 199 of Wednesday's dead were civilians.

"This is the highest toll in a single day since March 2011. And this is only counting those whose names have been documented. If we count the unidentified bodies, the figure will be much higher," said Observatory head Rami Abdel Rahman.

The previous highest death toll of the uprising was on 19 July, when 302 people were killed, according to the Britain-based watchdog.

More than 30 000 people have been killed overall in violence since the March 2011 outbreak of the revolt against the rule of President Bashar Assad, in a toll compiled by the Observatory.

An Islamist rebel group said its men carried out the bombings against the headquarters of the regime's armed forces, and five of its fighters, including a suicide bomber, died during the assault. Its claim was impossible to verify.

Car bombs

All senior commanders and other officers escaped injury in Wednesday's attack on army headquarters, the military said.

State television showed video footage of a white van exploding beside the military headquarters, and a second blast inside the compound. It said the bombings came 10 minutes apart, and that 14 people were wounded.

A spokesperson for the Free Syrian Army's Military Council in Damascus, Ahmed al-Khatib, said the attack was staged with two car bombs.

Syria's military also said the "terrorist explosions around and inside the army headquarters were caused by two car bombs driven by suicide attackers".

It was the biggest attack on the security apparatus since a 18 July suicide bombing against a heavily guarded headquarters in Damascus killed four top regime officials, including defence minister General Daoud Rajha and Assad's brother-in-law, Assef Shawkat.

Unknown attackers blew up an oil pipeline in the northeast Syrian province of Hasaka on Thursday.

"Unknown people blew up a crude oil pipeline before dawn in the Umm Madfaa region in southern Hasaka, causing a large fire. They also kidnapped the manager of the pumping station," Abdel Rahman told AFP by telephone.

The watchdog said plumes of smoke could be seen rising from the scene of the burst pipeline in Hasaka, the main oil producing region in Syria.

Several attacks have targeted Syria's oil infrastructure since the uprising erupted, cutting production in half from pre-revolt levels of 420 000 barrels per day.

In Aleppo city, troops pummelled the southwest district of Kalasseh and the eastern district of Sakhur and nearby Suleiman al-Halabi street, leaving an unknown number of casualties, said the Observatory.

The violence followed a pre-dawn rebel attack on an army checkpoint in the northwest province of Idlib, about 25km south of Aleppo on the highway to Damascus.

Fighting was also reported in Homs, Hama city, the coastal province of Latakia and the eastern province of Deir Ezzor. At least five people were killed on Thursday, including a child shot dead by a sniper in Hama city.

700 000 Syrian refugees

UNHCR chief co-ordinator for Syrian refugees Panes Moumtzsis on Thursday stepped up calls for emergency aid to refugees.

"There may be up to 700 000 Syrian refugees in neighbouring countries by the end of the year," Moumtzsis told reporters in Geneva. "We are running out of time."

Faced with the soaring need for aid, humanitarian agencies upped their call for funds to €379.2m to sustain operations until the end of the year.

At present, only $141.5m in funding is available, just 29% of the overall request, Moumtzsis said.

The UN children's agency UNICEF also took part in the joint appeal, saying that more than 50% of the refugees were under the age of 18 and one fifth were under five.

The raging conflict dominated proceedings at the UN General Assembly in New York.

"The atrocities mount while the Security Council remains paralysed and I would urge that we try once again to find a path forward" for the council to try to end the violence, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said.

Her appeal on Wednesday came amid mounting attempts by Western governments to press Russia and China to ease their opposition to UN action against the Assad regime.

British Prime Minister David Cameron said the blood of children killed in the conflict had become "a terrible stain on the reputation of this United Nations".

Arab ministers weighed calls for intervention, meeting UN-Arab League envoy Lakhdar Brahimi on the General Assembly sidelines.

Tunisian President Moncef Marzouki told AFP that his country could support an Arab peacekeeping force.

Read more on:    arab league  |  un  |  syria  |  syria conflict
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