Aleppo blast: regime and rebels ratchet up the information war

Sep 10, 2012
Louisa Loveluck

Free Syrian Army claim responsibility for bomb attack that targeted regime soldiers stationed in hospital

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THE devastating bomb blast that killed more than 30 people in the Syrian city of Aleppo yesterday was no more than a destructive terrorist act that took the lives of innocent civilians, according to the regime’s state new agency. But rebel fighters claim it was quite the opposite - a strategic attack which targeted military personnel who had taken over a local hospital as a makeshift barracks

The SANA news agency reported that 30 civilians and two security service personnel were killed in the “terrorist” attack outside the al-Hayat hospital in Aleppo’s al-Malaab al-Baladi neighbourhood. Syrian state television has screened footage of bodies being pulled from the rubble.

However, local residents have claimed that the hospital had ceased to function in its civilian capacity, and had been taken over by President Assad’s army. Opposition activist Ahmad Saeed told Reuters: “The army had taken over the neighbourhood and emptied it [of] residents.”

Today, an Aleppo-based brigade of the Free Syrian Army (FSA) claimed responsibility for the attack, saying the bomb had been smuggled into the building with the help of a sympathiser.

Claims that the FSA planted the bomb make sense in the light of the rebel attack on a Damascus military compound in July which killed three members of the president’s inner circle and allegedly left his brother severely injured. That incident is also believed to have been orchestrated with the help of insiders.

The differing accounts of Sunday’s bombing reflect the broader information war that has characterised Syria’s bloody uprising. Regime allegations that the FSA were targeting a civilian area come amid increasing accusations by opposition forces that the military have deliberately targeted civilian areas.

Last month, Human Rights Watch reported that military helicopters had targeted bakeries in residential areas, bombing scores of people as they queued for bread. By killing civilians, it is argued, the regime seeks to reduce neighbourhood support for the FSA.

Sunday’s bombing took place against the backdrop of an escalating humanitarian crisis in Aleppo. It was reported on Saturday that ongoing fighting had damaged a crucial water pipe that supplies the city with drinking water. A video released by opposition activists inside Syria shows a torrent of water flowing through rubble-strewn streets.

Once again, regime and rebel accounts of the pipe’s rupture have differed, with state media claiming it was the result of “clashes” while opposition sources stress that it was caused by aerial bombardment by the regime.

According to the United Nations, more than 18,000 people have been killed since the conflict began in March 2011. Sunday’s death toll included Tamer Awam, a young Syrian documentary maker whose most recent film, Memories at a Checkpoint, had documented life in Idlib province during the conflict.

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