Demonstrators hold banners during a protest against Syria's President Bashar al-Assad in Binsh, near Idlib. REUTERS/Hamzeh Al-Binishi/Shaam News Network/Handout
Syrian fighter jets have bombed the Palestinian Yarmouk camp
in Damascus, 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 say.
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
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.
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
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 that 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
Clashes flared anew after Sunday'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
Opposition activists and the Observatory said many families
were trying to escape the internal Yarmouk clashes.
INFANTRY COLLEGE CAPTURED
Insurgents had first reported seizing the infantry college on
Saturday, but the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said
later that day there was still fierce fighting going on.
The commander whose Tawheed brigade took part in the assault
said the rebels had surrounded the college, located 16 km (10
miles) north of Aleppo, Syria's largest city, three weeks
"At least 100 soldiers have been taken prisoner and 150
decided to join us. The soldiers were all hungry because of
the siege," the commander, who spoke on condition he was not
further identified, told Reuters by telephone.
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
Desperate food shortages are growing in parts of Syria and
residents of Aleppo say fistfights and dashes across the
civil war front lines have become part of the daily struggle
to secure a loaf of bread.
Damascus has accused Western powers of backing what it says
is a Sunni Islamist "terrorist" campaign to topple Assad, a
member of the minority Alawite sect affiliated with Shi'ite
Islam. It says that U.S. and European concerns about Assad's
forces possibly resorting to chemical weapons could serve as
a pretext for preparing military intervention.
But, unlike NATO's air campaign in support of Libya's
successful revolt last year against Muammar Gaddafi, Western
powers have been wary of intervening in Syria. They have been
deterred by the ethnic and religious complexity of a major
Arab state at the strategic heart of the Middle East - but
have also lacked U.N. consensus due to Russian support for