Outcry grows over bombing of Syria camp for displaced

aleppo (Syria)—Condemnation mounted Friday over deadly air strikes on a camp for displaced people in northern Syria as the regime and its Russian ally denied involvement and a fragile truce held in Aleppo city.
Women and children were reported to be among 28 civilians killed in Thursday’s raids near the Turkish border, which also wounded 50. The strikes in Idlib province, which is controlled by Syria’s Al-Qaeda affiliate Al-Nusra Front and rebel allies, came as a 48-hour ceasefire took hold in the battleground city of Aleppo to the east.
That truce was in its second day Friday, allowing residents some respite from two weeks of fighting that killed more than 280 civilians, even as clashes raged south of the city.
The halt in fighting is part of international efforts to revive a landmark February ceasefire and galvanise peace talks to end a five-year war that has killed more than 270,000 people and displaced millions.
Mamun al-Khatib, director of the Aleppo-based pro-rebel Shahba Press news agency, accused “regime aircraft” of firing missiles at the camp in Al-Kammouna village — an accusation Damascus denied.
“There is no truth in the information in some media that the Syrian air force targeted the displaced camp in Idlib province,” the official SANA news agency quoted the military as saying.
Russia’s military insisted no aircraft flew over the camp on Thursday, suggesting Al-Nusra could have shelled it.
“There were no flights by Russian or any other aircraft,” spokesman Igor Konashenkov told Russian news agencies.
– Charred bodies –
“The camp may have been shelled either on purpose or by mistake by multiple rocket launchers which are currently being used very actively in this area by terrorists from Al-Nusra,” Konashenkov said.
The February 27 ceasefire between the regime and non-jihadist rebels does not include areas where the Islamic State group and Al-Nusra are present.
The United States earlier described the raids as “totally in keeping” with the regime’s past operations. A video posted online showed emergency workers dragging a fire hose as smoke rose from destroyed tents and their colleagues covered charred victims with blankets and carried them away. The video also showed dismembered bodies covered in blood and dirt, including at least one child.
“There’s absolutely no justification for attacks on civilians in Syria, but especially on what appears to have been a refugee camp,” US State Department spokesman Mark Toner said.
The European Union called the bombardment “unacceptable”, as did the French foreign ministry. UN rights chief Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein said the camp’s tents could clearly be seen from the air so it was “extremely unlikely” to have been an accident.
“It is far more likely they were deliberate and amount to a war crime,” he said.
Regime aircraft have previously targeted rebels other than Al-Nusra Front and IS. Russia also launched air raids in support of Damascus in September, and a US-led coalition has conducted air strikes against IS in Syria since 2014.
Thousands of civilians have fled fighting in the northern province of Aleppo to camps along the border with Turkey, which refuses to let them cross the frontier. —AFP

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