20 killed in shelling of bakery in Aleppo, Syria
BEIRUT — At least 20 people were killed in the Syrian city of Aleppo on Tuesday when a bakery was hit by a shell, turning the bread shop into a bloodbath, activists said.
More than 50 people were injured in the attack by government forces on the Masaken Hanano neighborhood, they said, with surrounding field hospitals so overwhelmed by the influx of victims that activists sent out a plea for local doctors to come and assist.
Only half of the victims could be identified. One gruesome video showed a young girl, in a turquoise shirt, whose head had been blown off.
They were among more than 100 killed across Syria on Tuesday, activists said.
The bakery was the only one still operating in that part of the city, serving the Masaken Hanano neighborhood and surrounding districts. About 100 people were lined up at the bakery, said Abu Firas, a spokesman for the Revolutionary Council for Aleppo and Its Suburbs.
It was the third consecutive day that the opposition-controlled neighborhood was under intense shelling, which left a dozen people dead Sunday and Monday, he said.
Nearly a dozen bakeries have been attacked since July when Aleppo, once the country’s commercial hub, became one of the main battlegrounds in the conflict.
“They are directly targeting the bakeries because many people gather there. Why are they shelling it? There aren’t any Free Syrian Army fighters,” Abu Firas said, referring to the main rebel group. “The regime wants life to stop.”
In the Damascus suburb of Moadamyeh al Sham, residents Tuesday held funerals for 42 civilians who were arrested at a military checkpoint Monday and soon found executed, according to an opposition group. Some reportedly were strangled, others stabbed and still others shot at close range.
The funeral procession turned into an angry protest, which was attacked with an explosive device. Some reports said it was a rocket; others said it was an improvised “barrel bomb” or car bomb. Activists said 16 people were killed at the gathering, including six children.
Amid the violence, the number of Syrian refugees in Lebanon has exceeded 100,000, the third country in the region to pass that mark, the United Nations refugee agency said.
Thousands of Syrians continue to flee into neighboring countries as daily death tolls from the 19-month uprising often top 150 amid no prospect for an end to the conflict. An attempt by Lakhdar Brahimi, the U.N. and Arab League envoy to Syria, to broker a cease-fire for the coming Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha is widely viewed as unlikely to succeed.
More than 100,000 Syrians have registered or are waiting for registration with the U.N. in Lebanon, but the actual number of refugees there is probably much higher.
Most of the refugees are Sunni Muslims, and activists in Lebanon say that some have been wary of making their presence known in a country with Sunni-Shiite tensions.
Turkey and Jordan have more refugees than Lebanon, and Iraq is hosting a large population as well. There are more than 358,000 Syrian refugees in the region, said Melissa Fleming, a spokeswoman for the Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees.
The recent unrest in Lebanon, after a car bombing Friday that killed the nation’s police intelligence chief, temporarily disrupted the registration of refugees.
More than 5,500 refugees registered last week with the U.N. refugee agency, and the longer Syrians remain in exile the more likely they are to seek help as their savings are depleted. Many refugees fled home with few resources because work has been disrupted for more than a year in some areas of Syria.
Almost 70% of Syrian refugees are from the battered city of Homs, which is still being shelled by government forces.
In Lebanon, the situation is further exacerbated because there are no refugee camps where housing and food are provided, so Syrians here must rely on their own resources.
“We are racing against time to ensure that all of these hundreds of thousands of refugees are protected from the winter cold,” Fleming said.
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