Conflict & Justice

Syria: Rebels target airport, 'dozens' of villagers executed by government forces


Rebel fighters take part in a demonstration against the Syrian regime after the Friday prayer in the al-Fardos neighbourhood of Aleppo on December 7, 2012. Syrian opposition groups had agreed in Doha last month to sink their differences and form a single body in the hope of getting direct aid, including crucial anti-aircraft weapons, to combat President Assad.


Odd Andersen

Rebels in Syria attacked the Damascus International Airport Friday, as reports of government forces' executing "dozens" in a village in north-western Syria also surfaced. 

The rebels launched two mortars at the airport, which crashed into a kerosene tank and an out-of-service commercial airplane, causing "huge material damage," according to reports by the official SANA news agency

Several flights have been canceled as a result of the attack. Though the insurgents have attacked the airport several times, the government does not usually acknowledge it. 

The airport offensive comes a day after Syrian forces launched an offensive in the city of Homs, as well as several other pushes against rebel strongholds. 

The government also reportedly executed "dozens" in the predominantly Sunni village of al-Bayda, near the port of Baniyas, on Thursday, BBC News reported

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and Violations Documentation Center both recorded names of over 40 people believed to have been "summarily executed, shot to death, stabbed or set on fire," according to the UK-based Observatory. 

The Associated Press cited the death toll in al-Bayda as at least 50.

Meanwhile, Amnesty International reported Friday that both Assad's regime and elements of the rebel factions are deliberately targeting journalists in the region. 

The report doesn't confirm the number of journalist casualties — which is somewhere between 40 and 100 — but does cite specific cases of abuse. 

“We have once again documented how all sides in this conflict are violating the laws of war, although the scale of abuse by government forces remains much greater,” said Ann Harrison, Deputy Director of Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Program. 

“Deliberate attacks on civilians, including journalists, amount to war crimes for which the perpetrators must be brought to justice.”  

GlobalPost revealed Friday that missing reporter, James Foley, is likely being held at a government detention facility near Damascus. 

“With a very high degree of confidence, we now believe that Jim was most likely abducted by a pro-regime militia group and subsequently turned over to Syrian government forces,” GlobalPost CEO and President Philip Balboni said during a speech marking World Press Freedom Day.

“We have obtained multiple independent reports from very credible confidential sources who have both indirect and direct access that confirm our assessment that Jim is now being held by the Syrian government in a prison or detention facility in the Damascus area," he said.

"We further believe that this facility is under the control of the Syrian Air Force Intelligence service. Based on what we have learned, it is likely Jim is being held with one or more Western journalists, including most likely at least one other American.”

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