Amid Intensified Attacks, Syrian Rebels Shut Down Schools in Aleppo
Amid intensified government airstrikes on civilian areas in Syria’s second largest city this weekend, schools in opposition-held territory in Aleppo will shut for at least a week, AFP reports. The opposition education authority in Aleppo called on schools and teaching centers to suspend their classes until the end of this week, following the deaths of at least five children in a Syrian army airstrike on Sunday that hit a school.
“On Sunday, bloodstains and debris marked the entrances of the bombed-out school, and broken desks and glass were strewn across classroom floors,” AFP wrote.
“The 135 schools as well as the markets are all closed,” an activist told AFP.
The closure of the school coincides with mounting clashes between Syrian rebels and government forces in Aleppo this weekend that left over 30 civilians dead.
Seventeen people were killed in the government-held district of Suleimaniyah, which was shelled by rebels early Saturday morning, and 15 were killed in an army airstrike that later hit a market in the opposition-held neighborhood of Maadi in apparent retaliation, according to the Observatory.
Aleppo is divided between Syrian regime and opposition forces. The Syrian regime controls the west and frequently bombs rebel-held neighborhoods in the east from the air, and the rebels often retaliate with rocket and mortar fire. More than 50,000 teachers have fled Syria or been killed, while 2.6 million children are out of school inside the war-torn country.
U.N. Official to Visit Besieged Yarmouk Refugee Camp in Syria
Commissioner-General Pierre Krähenbühl of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) will make an emergency visit to the Yarmouk Palestinian camp in Syria on Saturday to assess the humanitarian situation in the camp, CNN reports.
Krähenbühl will meet with senior Syrian officials, U.N. staff members and displaced people from the camp itself to discuss ways to relieve the suffering of an estimated 18,000 refugees who are now trapped inside Yarmouk, caught between ISIS and Syrian regime forces in what U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has described as “the deepest circle of hell”.
The camp has been besieged by government forces for over two years and was recently overrun by the Islamic State.
UNRWA spokesman Christopher Gunness suggested that Mr. Krähenbühl will be seeking ways to communicate, at least indirectly, with fighters of the Islamic State who are believed to be in control of most of the camp, the New York Times reports.
UNRWA has been unable to deliver aid to the camp, where residents have been subsisting on about 400 calories a day and have no access to medical care after the camp’s last functioning hospital was occupied by ISIS then targeted by regime shelling last week.
“As terror closes in on Yarmouk from all sides, residents have two choices – to attempt to flee what was their place of refuge, or to stay inside what the U.N. says now resembles a camp of death,” CNN writes.
Pentagon Says Islamic State is Losing Ground in Iraq, Gaining in Syria
The Pentagon says while Islamic State militants have lost control of up to 6,500 square miles in Iraq they gained a bit of ground in Syria since last August, holding onto territory across the north and east of the country, AP reports.
Army colonel Steve Warren, a Pentagon spokesman, said U.S. coalition airstrikes have not had the same success in Syria although the Islamic State were ousted from Kobani in January by Kurdish forces backed up by strikes.
Until recently, ISIS was confined mostly to the east of the country. Last week’s attack on Yarmouk from within the capital of Damascus marked the first time ISIS had encroached westward from its headquarters in Raqqa toward Assad’s seat of power.
The group has also made ground around Homs and Damascus, AP reports.
- The Wall Street Journal: Aleppo Diary: Carnage From Syrian Barrel Bombs
- The Daily Star: Syria Rebels Seize Hezbollah Position Near Lebanon Border
- CNN: Miracle Children Dwell in ‘the Deepest Circle of Hell’
- Human Rights Watch: Syria: Chemicals Used in Idlib Attacks
- Reuters: U.N. Syria Envoy to Consult on New Political Talks: Diplomats
Photo Courtesy of AP Images