Syrian bombardments create new refugee wave

Army assaults most intense of war; no shelter for new refugees; Russia says Syrian rebels have shoulder-fired missiles.

By REUTERS
October 24, 2012 10:46
2 minute read.
Syrian refugees in Turkey

Syrian refugees in Turkey 370. (photo credit: REUTERS/Osman Orsal)

 
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ATIMA, Syria - Hundreds of Syrian refugees have poured into a makeshift refugee camp overlooking the Turkish border, fleeing a week of what they say are the most intense army bombardments since the uprising began 19 months ago.

In the past two days, 700 tents have been erected in a sprawling olive grove on a hill just inside Syria and all of them have already been claimed.

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Dozens of stranded families struggle into the camp to find no shelter, but are afraid to return home to the horror of the constant shelling.

Nabil, a pale 20-year-old with dark rings under his eyes, watched dozens of women and children who came with him from his mountain village of Jabal al-Zawiya cram themselves back into the truck that brought them, hoping to find refuge in a nearby village.

"Some of the bombs were so big they sucked in the air and everything crashes down, even four-storey buildings. We used to have one or two rockets a day, now for the past 10 days it has become constant, we run from one shelter to another. They drop a few bombs and it's like a massacre," he said.

"My family came home this morning and found our house was completely destroyed. Luckily we were hiding in a cave. I had nothing to bring with me."

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Like Nabil, most of the refugees were from Idlib province and said they were paying the price for rebel advances in the area.

Fighters trying to topple President Bashar al-Assad have seized the strategic town Maarat al-Numan along the north-south highway, the army's main supply route, as well as several military positions.

War planes launched a series of bombing raids on Maarat al-Numan and nearby villages on Wednesday morning, the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

It said that so far five people from one family, including a child and a woman, were killed in Wednesday's assault.

For two weeks, rebels have surrounded and attacked Wadi al-Deif, an army base east of Maarat al-Numan, and the army has responded with heavy bombardment in the surrounding areas.

More than 32,000 people have been killed in the conflict, according to the Observatory, and the number rises daily.

Russia says Syrian rebels have shoulder-fired missiles

Meanwhile, the interfax news agency quoted Russia's senior general as saying Wednesday that Syrian rebels have acquired portable surface-to-air missiles including US-made Stingers.

Like Syrian President Bashar Assad, Russia has laid most of the blame for continuing violence on armed government foes it says are aided by encouragement and arms from abroad.

Russia's military has learned "that militants fighting Syrian government forces have portable missile launchers of various states, including American-made Stingers," Interfax quoted general staff chief Nikolai Makarov as saying.

"Who supplied them must still be determined," he said.

NBC News reported in late July that the rebel Free Syrian Army had obtained nearly two dozen shoulder-fired surface-to-air missiles, also known as MANPADs. A political adviser to the Free Syrian Army denied it.

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