Thursday, August 30, 2012

Syrian Civil War Update: Even Bread Lines Aren't Safe From Assad's Attacks

Bashar al Assad is feeling the heat on all fronts. His security forces and loyalist goons can't stop the rebel forces from gaining and holding territory despite having a monopoly on air power and artillery. His backers remain at Iran, Russia, and China, and that may not be enough to keep him in power.

Egypt's new President Mohamad Morsi has called for an intervention in Syria and told Iran that it's thwarting a peaceful transition of power in Syria by backing Assad. Morsi called out Iran on Iran's home turf during a meeting of the non-aligned nations.

It's not surprising that Assad's diplomats walked out during Morsi's meeting. They have few friends among diplomats across the globe, and Morsi's criticism came on Syria's primary backer's doorstep.

Assad's regime keeps trying to play down the slow but steady stream of defectors, but the fact is that support for Assad within his regime isn't what it once was. The civil war rages on, the death toll mounts, and there is disillusionment with how Assad has handled everything - namely preserving power for himself at the expense of more than 20,000 lives across the country. The number of refugees is continuing to rise because the violence continues through the heart of Syria's urban areas. Those refugees are a problem not only for Syria, but the countries where they are seeking refuge. That is likely to inflame tensions and could potentially spur those countries, including Lebanon, Turkey, and Jordan, to take action - closing down the border, military action against Syria, or demanding that the UN take more resolute action than weak worded resolutions that are teethless because Russia and China are blocking anything more constructive.

But most of all, his incessant attacks on civilians will take its toll. You cannot murder dozens of people by carrying out airstrikes against people queued up in lines for bread without all Syrians taking notice.

Dozens were killed when airstrikes over a period of days hit multiple breadlines in Aleppo.
Syrian jets and artillery have struck at least 10 bakeries in Aleppo in the last three weeks, killing dozens of people as they waited in line to buy bread, Human Rights Watch said on Thursday, accusing the military of targeting civilians.

The U.S.-based group said the attacks were either aimed at or were done without care to avoid the hundreds of civilians forced to queue outside a dwindling number of bakeries in Syria's biggest city, a front line in the civil war.

"The attacks are at least recklessly indiscriminate and the pattern and number of attacks suggest that government forces have been targeting civilians," Human Rights Watch (HRW) said.

"Both reckless indiscriminate attacks and deliberately targeting civilians are war crimes."

One attack on August 16 killed around 60 people and wounded more than 70, said HRW, which sent a researcher to the embattled city.

Food shortages in Aleppo - a focal point of the 17-month-old uprising against President Bashar al-Assad - have forced many bakeries to close, meaning huge queues for the food staple outside the remaining shops.

"Day after day, Aleppo residents line up to get bread for their families, and instead get shrapnel piercing their bodies from government bombs and shells," said Ole Solvang, the HRW researcher who visited Aleppo.
That's a textbook example of war crimes and crimes against humanity carried out by the Assad regime. Assad's forces targeted civilian populations and fired indiscriminately on civilian populations. Assad must be held to account for his atrocities.

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