Saturday, September 8, 2012

Syrian troops storm Palestinian Yarmouk camp in Damascus

Syrian government troops stormed into a Palestinian refugee district and raided its hospital on Saturday after a four-day artillery assault on the southern suburb where rebels have been hiding out, opposition activists said. President Bashar al-Assad's forces have preferred to use air power and artillery to hit areas where rebels are dug in, deploying infantry only once many have fled.
Syrian activist Abu Yasser al-Shami said that his friends living in Yarmouk, a densely populated Palestinian refugee camp where 10 people were killed on Friday in shelling, had fled the area on Saturday morning after government troops swept in. "Assad's forces stormed al-Basel hospital in Yarmouk Camp and arrested many of the injured civilians," he said over Skype.
When insurgents thrust into central parts of the capital in July, they were swiftly pushed back to southern districts, like Yarmouk, where there is a thinner state security presence.
Activists say Assad has been reluctant to use infantry as the army is made mostly of conscripts drawn from the Sunni Muslim majority, many of whom seen as desertion risks. Some defected soldiers say morale is low in the barracks and that only officers from Assad's Alawite sect are giving orders.
Residents complain that the army uses indiscriminate artillery and air strikes. Palestinians have been divided over whether or not to support Assad, but there are signs that more and more are now starting to back the uprising.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, an opposition watchdog based in London, said shells rained down on Hajar al-Aswad district, which neighbors Yarmouk, on Saturday.
It said 170 people were killed in bloodshed on Friday across the country, many of them in Damascus and northern Aleppo, where rebels say they control more than half of what is Syria's most populous city and commercial centre.

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