Sunday, April 22, 2018

In Syria, a city reflects on losses during holiday lull

ALEPPO, Syria — A brief lull in fighting for a Muslim holiday Sunday allowed residents of Aleppo to take stock of their losses after three weeks of intense battles left many in Syria's largest city strapped for cash, separated from loved ones and scared of more violence ahead.

In the capital, Damascus, President Bashar Assad prayed at a mosque. It was only the second time he has been shown on TV since a bomb attack killed four of his top security advisers July 18.

Thousands across the country marched against Assad in mosques and cemeteries after special dawn prayers marking the start of the three-day Eid al-Fitr holiday, which caps the holy month of Ramadan. The holiday — usually a joyful time to remember the dead, dress up in new clothes and visit family — followed a particularly bloody Ramadan when fighting erupted in Syria's two largest cities, bringing large civilian populations under fire and causing a spike in the death toll.

"There is no holiday," said Mohammed Radwan, 34, standing near an apartment building in Aleppo's Tariq al-Bab neighborhood, which was hit by an airstrike the day before. "The electricity comes and goes, the jets fire on us, and no one has any work. All we'll do today is clean up the rocks and rubble."

Nearby, a group of men coated in gray cement dust searched the wreckage of the strike for the bodies of two girls, ages 2 and 14.

The fighting in Aleppo has marked the first time that Assad has relied heavily on air power to bomb and strafe rebel forces who have grown adept at challenging ground troops. The poorly armed opposition fighters are largely helpless against near-daily airstrikes by attack helicopters and fighter jets, and the attacks often kill or terrify civilians. As many as 200,000 have fled Aleppo, either to nearby villages or to refugee camps in Turkey.

But after three weeks of battle, the government has still not managed to defeat the rebels — a sign of the regime's loosening grip on the country.

In the town of Azaz, near the Turkish border, an airstrike on Wednesday that killed more than 40 people cast a pall over holiday prayers. Only about 100 men showed up to pray in the Hadideen mosque with its salmon-colored minaret bearing the scars of a shell blast.

Residents said many families fled the town after the strike. Others packed up blankets and mats to camp out in the olive groves around town, fearing another attack on the holiday.

"We should all be wearing new clothes and be freshly groomed, but look at us," said Abdullah Sayid, pointing to his stubbly chin and the glum faces of the men around him. "Nobody feels like it."

His younger brother Abdel-Hafiz, 32, was killed in the airstrike.

Many Aleppo residents say the huge changes since the fighting began have left them confused. Aleppo, a city of some 4 million people spread around a cobblestone old city and medieval citadel, has long been considered one of the most beautiful spots in what was a very safe country.

Some were torn between their distrust of the mostly rural rebels and their anger at the government for its shelling and airstrikes.

"The events have really hurt the people, especially the poor," said Fares Munir, a 39-year-old tailor sitting with friends in one of the few open shops in the Shaar neighborhood. "We hoped that the government would protect us when the armed groups came in. But it didn't, and now it is shelling us along with them."

Syrian state media continued to try to project an image of normalcy despite the violence that antiregime activists say has killed more than 20,000 people since the uprising started in March 2011.

State TV showed Assad praying in a small mosque in Damascus, near the presidential palace. He sat cross-legged on the floor in a suit and tie and later shook hands with officials. Assad normally prays at the biggest and oldest in Damascus.

International powers are still stalemated over how to stop the bloodshed in Syria.

 
Comments
Rays’ Carlos Gomez hits two-run walkoff homer to beat Twins for series sweep

Rays’ Carlos Gomez hits two-run walkoff homer to beat Twins for series sweep

ST. PETERSBURG – Carlos Gomez was in such a horrific slump, after one of his three strikeouts Sunday, he broke his bat over his knee. Then he broke the Twins' hearts.Gomez ripped a long two-run home run to leftfield with no one out in the botto...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Top prospect Torres makes MLB debut as Yankees go young

Top prospect Torres makes MLB debut as Yankees go young

Gleyber Torres had a tough time at the plate in his first major league game
Updated: 1 hour ago

Todd wins NHRA SpringNationals for 2nd straight victory

J.R. Todd won the NHRA SpringNationals on Sunday at Royal Purple Raceway for his second straight Funny Car victory
Updated: 1 hour ago
Scientists say global warming damage to Great Barrier Reef is irreversible; suicide bomber kills at least 57 in Kabul; more in world news

Scientists say global warming damage to Great Barrier Reef is irreversible; suicide bomber kills at least 57 in Kabul; more in world news

AustraliaReef’s damage is irreversibleAn underwater heat wave that damaged huge sections of Australia’s Great Barrier Reef two years ago spurred a die-off of coral so severe that scientists say the natural wonder will never look the same again. Scien...
Updated: 1 hour ago

Local vote comes as Italy struggles to form government

Election results from one of Italy's tiniest regions are being eagerly awaited Monday for any possible shift in voter sentiment as politicians struggle to form a national government
Updated: 1 hour ago
Photos capture special moments from Barbara Bush's funeral

Photos capture special moments from Barbara Bush's funeral

Photos that a family spokesman tweeted capture special moments from former first lady Barbara Bush's funeral, including a group shot of presidents and first ladies
Updated: 1 hour ago
4 dead in Nashville Waffle House shooting; suspect sought

4 dead in Nashville Waffle House shooting; suspect sought

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — A nearly naked gunman wearing only a green jacket and brandishing an assault rifle stormed a Waffle House restaurant in Nashville early Sunday, shooting four people to death before a customer rushed him and wrestled the weapo...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Wong, DeJong homer as Cardinals sweep Reds again

Wong, DeJong homer as Cardinals sweep Reds again

Kolten Wong and Paul DeJong homered, Mike Mikolas tossed seven strong innings and the St. Louis Cardinals completed their second sweep of the woeful Cincinnati Reds this season with a 9-2 victory
Updated: 1 hour ago
Deputies: Florida man on LSD knocks out teen girl at RaceTrac while her parent pumps gas

Deputies: Florida man on LSD knocks out teen girl at RaceTrac while her parent pumps gas

ST. PETERSBURG — A man punched a 13-year-old girl inside a RaceTrac convenience store Saturday, knocking her unconscious as her parent pumped gas outside, Pinellas deputies reported.Kolbe Wayne Smith, 27, of St. Petersburg now faces charges of aggrav...
Updated: 1 hour ago

Sounders beat Minnesota 3-1 for 1st win of season

Gustav Svensson and Will Bruin scored in a three-minute span midway through the first half and the Seattle Sounders won for the first time this season, beating Minnesota United 3-1
Updated: 1 hour ago