Bombing Causes Civilians to Flee Rebel Held Town in Syria
After a rebel held town in Syria had been bombed and shelled in an operation which has caused fears of a major assault by ground troops, thousands of people have fled from the town, according to the United Nations (UN).
The fighting came as the peace talks in Geneva came to the end of a second round with the government and opposition sides sticking to their positions and as far from the agreement as possible.
A senior U.S. official on Friday said that “nearly 5,000 people have been killed just since these talks began.” Military action in the town of Yabroud, in western Syria near the border with Lebanon would be fitting with the government’s aim of securing a corridor linking Damascus with President Bashar al-Assad’s heartland on the Mediterranean coast.
The U.N. human rights spokesman Rupert Colville stated that they “have received reports from within Syria that there have been numerous aerial attacks and shelling along with a military build-up around the town, suggesting a major assault by land may be imminent.” He added that some estimates suggested that as many as 40,000 to 50,000 people were still in the town with thousands of others fleeing over the last few days.
Colville stated in a news briefing in Geneva that the electricity was cut off on Wednesday and field hospitals are short of medical supplies as scores of people require urgent treatment.
The failure to allow the civilians to leave would amount to “grave violations” of the international humanitarian law by Damascus. About 500 or 600 families who have fled have already arrived in Arsal, Lebanon, and the U.N. refugee agency is expecting a big influx across the border, according to the UNHCR spokeswoman Melissa Fleming. The opposition negotiator Ahmad Jakal said that in Geneva, international mediator Lakhdar Brahimi told the delegates that he is planning on taking the talks into a third round but has not yet set a date for their resumption.