Damaged cars are seen at the site where two explosions
rocked the University of Aleppo, killing at least 52
people. REUTERS/George Ourfalian
Two explosions have torn through one of Syria's biggest
universities on the first day of student exams, killing at
least 52 people and wounding dozens, a monitoring group said.
Bloodshed has disrupted civilian life across Syria since a
violent government crackdown in early 2011 on peaceful
demonstrations for democratic reform turned the unrest into
an armed insurgency bent on overthrowing President Bashar
More than 50 countries asked the United Nations Security
Council on Tuesday to refer the crisis to the International
Criminal Court, which prosecutes people for genocide and war
crimes. But Russia - Assad's long-standing ally and arms
supplier - blocked the initiative, calling it "ill-timed and
Each side in the 22-month-old conflict blamed the other for
Tuesday's blasts at the University of Aleppo, located in a
government-held area of Syria's most populous city.
Some activists in Aleppo said a government attack caused the
explosions, while state television accused "terrorists" - a
term they often use to describe the rebels - of firing two
rockets at the school. A rebel fighter said the blasts
appeared to have been caused by "ground-to-ground" missiles.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based
monitoring group, said at least 52 people were killed and
dozens wounded, but it could not identify the source of the
"Dozens are in critical condition. The death toll could rise
to 90," the Observatory said in a statement, citing doctors
State television - which did not give a death toll - showed a
body lying on the street and several cars burning. One of the
university buildings was damaged.
Video footage showed students carrying books out of the
university after one of the explosions, walking quickly away
from rising smoke. The camera then shakes to the sound of
another explosion and people begin running.
If confirmed, the government's report of a rocket attack
would suggest rebels in the area had been able to obtain and
deploy more powerful weapons than previously used.
The nearest rebel-controlled area, Bustan al-Qasr, is more
than a mile away from the university.
Activists rejected the suggestion that insurgents were behind
the attack, however, and instead blamed the government.
"The warplanes of this criminal regime do not respect a
mosque, a church or a university," said a student who gave
his name as Abu Tayem.
GRINDING TOWARD STALEMATE
The rebels have been trying to take Aleppo - once a thriving
commercial hub - since the summer, but have been unable to
uproot Assad's better-armed and more organised forces.
International efforts to find a political solution to Syria's
civil war have similarly resulted in stalemate, even as the
conflict's death toll has surged above 60,000.
The crisis has driven hundreds of thousands of people to flee
the country, many to neighbouring Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey,
where a fire at a camp in the country's southeast killed a
pregnant Syrian woman and her three children on Tuesday.
Inside Syria, neither the military nor the insurgents have
been able to sustain clear momentum.
The rebels remain poorly equipped and disorganised compared
with Assad's forces, despite winning support from some
regional powers like Turkey and Saudi Arabia.
The government also benefits from superior air power, used to
pummel rebel-held areas around Damascus and elsewhere.
Rebel efforts to assault the capital also appear to have
ground towards an stalemate. A witness in a rebel-controlled
district of Damascus said on Tuesday the front line between
the two sides was quiet.
The streets were still full of civilians, the witness said,
despite the sound of shells hitting nearby buildings. He said
people were walking around, buying sweets and sandwiches.