BEIRUT, (Reuters) – Syrian forces bombarded a crowded Palestinian refugee district in Damascus on Friday, killing at least 10 people according to residents, while other parts of the city were rocked by apparent rebel bomb attacks.
The main focus of the fighting is now in the economic center, Aleppo, but rebels fighting to topple President Bashar al-Assad continue to attack government forces and buildings in the capital.
Five security personnel were killed and several others were wounded in a “terrorist” blast caused by explosives attached to a motorcycle in the Rukn al-Din district of Damascus, state television said.
A car bomb also exploded between the Information Ministry and the main Damascus courthouse, it said, giving no details of any casualties.
In the south of the capital, rockets rained down on Yarmouk, a densely populated Palestinian refugee camp. A woman living nearby counted at least 11 strikes. Video uploaded by activists showed clouds of grey smoke curling into the air.
“At least 10 people have been killed and 15 wounded since they resumed shelling,” the woman said by telephone, asking not to be named for her own safety. “There are several burned corpses and limbs, so no one is sure of the total death toll.”
Residents across the city said they had been hearing heavy blasts and sporadic gunfire since early on Friday morning.
“I can count at least 10 columns of smoke coming from the southern neighborhoods around the camp,” said activist Samir al-Shami, speaking on Skype. He said tanks and troops had been brought in to conduct raids on some southern neighborhoods.
“WHY ARE THEY DOING THIS?”
Assad’s forces are trying to re-establish full control in Damascus as they battle anti-government forces in Aleppo, Syrias economic hub, and pockets of rebellion across the country.
The army began bombarding Yarmouk on Thursday, possibly targeting rebels who residents say may have entered the camp.
“Why are they doing this? What good is shelling a camp with houses and bakeries? They are making sure that every Syrian and Palestinian turns against them,” complained one Palestinian resident near Yarmouk, who also asked to remain anonymous.
Palestinians have been divided over whether or not to support Assad, but there are signs that more and more are now starting to back the uprising.
The regional news channel Al Arabiya aired live footage of an opposition protest in Yarmouk an hour before shelling there resumed.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says that more than 23,000 people have died in an uprising that has lasted more than 17 months. Around 200,000 Syrians have fled to neighboring Turkey, Jordan and Iraq.
The European Commission, the executive body of the European Union, said it would give 50 million euros to help Syrian civilians, adding to 69 million already contributed.
Kristalina Georgeva, European commissioner for humanitarian aid, told reporters that talk by Western nations of creating a buffer zone shielded from air strikes was currently impractical.
“We do not have a (U.N.) Security Council resolution that authorizes any intervention that could secure space of that nature,” she said.
Georgeva said aid workers saw the buffer zones as a last resort because the humanitarian aims of such projects were difficult to secure, as fighters often infiltrated the areas.
“They sometimes may end up prolonging or deepening a conflict rather than resolving it. But if the international community was to come up with a united position in the Security Council to authorize buffer zones, at that moment of time, with the number of victims growing every day … yes, that could help but, again, at this moment of time I don’t see it.”