Hundreds killed in Syria shelling, says HRW

Syrian forces killed some 700 people and wounded thousands in a 27-day bombardment of Homs, with shells sometimes falling at the rate of 100 an hour, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said on Saturday.

HRW urged the United Nations Security Council to adopt a resolution demanding an “end to indiscriminate shelling of cities and allow the delivery of humanitarian aid and the safe passage of civilians and the injured”.

Human Rights Watch acquired and analysed a commercial satellite image of the Baba Amr neighbourhood of Homs on February 25, which they claim shows the extensive damage caused by the use of surface-delivered explosive weapons in a populated area.

According to Human Rights Watch, close-ups of the satellite image show tanks and other armoured vehicles positioned on a secondary road to Aysoon, just west of Baba Amr, and confirm the presence of tanks, infantry fighting vehicles, and other military vehicles at the main roundabout at the northwest entry point of the city. Two tanks are shown advancing down the road, to the south, toward Baba Amr.

According to accounts from journalists and residents who fled, the New York-based watchdog said late on Friday that heavy shelling of the city’s Baba Amr district would start every day at around 6.30 am and continue until sunset, with some bombardment also taking place during the night.

It said 122mm howitzers and 120mm mortars were used, as well as the Russian-made 240mm mortar, which it quoted an arms catalogue as saying is designed to “demolish fortifications and fieldworks”.

Various videos have been made by residents showing unexploded projectiles

Explosive environment
One journalist said she “counted 200 explosions in two hours” on February 6. Another journalist counted 55 explosions in 15 minutes on February 16 HRW said.

HRW quoted a wounded rebel fighter as saying: “The shelling generated so much damage that everyone we found inside the buildings that had been hit came out in pieces. I found a mother in Inshaat (north of Baba Amr) cut in half with her head missing.”

After a massive ground assault on Thursday, rebel troops withdrew from Baba Amr in the face of overwhelmingly superior fire power. But the Red Cross had still not been granted access by midday Saturday.

For the injured and others, conditions were dire in Baba Amr, which HRW said has had no electricity or running water for the past two weeks.

A doctor was quoted as saying that many wounded in the shelling died for lack of proper care, while a volunteer said it became practically impossible to evacuate the wounded.

“Every time men tried to evacuate the wounded at least two or three would get shot or killed,” the doctor said.

In addition to the casualties, HRW said satellite images showed 640 buildings were visibly damaged, but that the real picture could be worse. It also counted 950 craters visible in open areas.

No safe passage out
HRW noted that Baba Amr has been an opposition stronghold since anti-regime protests erupted last March and that it had documented attacks by armed opposition fighters on security forces in the area, as well as clashes between the two sides.

But the presence of armed opposition forces in Baba Amr “in no way justifies the scale and nature of the attack” on it, HRW said, and did not excuse the government’s refusal to coordinate safe passage for civilians seeking to leave. — AFP

Syria has been described as a nation at war with itself. View our special report

PW Botha wagged his finger and banned us in 1988 but we stood firm. We built a reputation for fearless journalism, then, and now. Through these last 35 years, the Mail & Guardian has always been on the right side of history.

These days, we are on the trail of the merry band of corporates and politicians robbing South Africa of its own potential.

To help us ensure another 35 future years of fiercely independent journalism, please subscribe.

Advertisting

‘My biggest fear was getting the virus and dying in...

South African Wuhan evacuee speaks about his nine-week ordeal

Border walls don’t stop viruses, but a blanket amnesty might

Why South Africa should consider amnesty for undocumented migrants in the time of the coronavirus outbreak.

Mail & Guardian needs your help

Our job is to help give you the information we all need to participate in building this country, while holding those in power to account. But now the power to help us keep doing that is in your hands

Press Releases

The online value of executive education in a Covid-19 world

Executive education courses further develop the skills of leaders in the workplace

Sisa Ntshona urges everyone to stay home, and consider travelling later

Sisa Ntshona has urged everyone to limit their movements in line with government’s request

SAB Zenzele’s special AGM postponed until further notice

An arrangement has been announced for shareholders and retailers to receive a 77.5% cash payout

20th Edition of the National Teaching Awards

Teachers are seldom recognised but they are indispensable to the country's education system

Awards affirm the vital work that teachers do

Government is committed to empowering South Africa’s teachers with skills, knowledge and techniques for a changing world

SAB Zenzele special AGM rescheduled to March 25 2020

New voting arrangements are being made to safeguard the health of shareholders

Dimension Data launches Saturday School in PE

The Gauteng Saturday School has produced a number of success stories