Middle East

Regime attacks symbolic Deraa mosque

A view shows damaged mosques and properties which activists said were damaged by shelling by forces loyal to Syria's President Bashar al-Assad, in Deraa, April 10, 2013. REUTERS/Mazen Abu Mahmoud/Shaam News Network/Handout

BEIRUT: Regime forces have destroyed part of the Omari mosque in Deraa, a key site of the initial uprising against President Bashar Assad over two years ago, activists said Sunday.

The minaret of the mosque – which allegedly dates back to the seventh century – has been completely destroyed, as seen in videos posted online Saturday, due to tank shelling.

The activists network, the Local Coordination Committees, condemned the attack, which it labeled a “barbaric action,” which “didn't only destroy stones, but also destroyed a religious and historic heritage that is a source of pride for the people of Syria.”

“This mosque,” it added, “is a religious symbol and a deep political symbol for the revolution in Syria: The first speech in the revolution in Syria was recited there by the Sheikh Ahmad Alsayasneh, and the starting point of the first demonstration of dignity and anger.”

Also Sunday, three state television journalists were wounded in an Aleppo car bomb which also killed several soldiers and rebels, according to the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

The Observatory added that some rebels “exited the vehicle before storming the checkpoint and clashed with regular forces,” near an officer’s base in the Al-Furqan neighborhood of the city.

State media reported that armed forces foiled the car bomb attempt, and that, “army members blocked the terrorists' Hyundai Avanti car 500 meters away from the security HQ, killing the two terrorists as one of them detonated the car before he died.” It does not mention deaths of any regular forces.

Also in Idlib province Sunday, regime forces retook two army bases from the rebels.

"Regime forces managed to lift the siege on the Wadi Deif and Hamdiya military camps after the army went around the rebel fighters and attacked them from behind," the Observatory said.

Speaking to AFP, Observatory director Rami Abdel Rahman said regular soldiers “now control two hilltops on either side of the Damascus-Aleppo international highway," reopening a supply route for the army.

Across the country Sunday, regime warplanes shelled Lattakia, Homs, Deraa, Idlib and the Damascus suburbs, where four brothers also died under torture while in detention, according to the LCC.

In the northeastern Al-Hasakah province, seven members of the same family were killed in regime shelling, it added, among a total of 16 from the same village.

Overnight, four children from the same family were killed in airstrikes on Raqqa, the first provincial city to fall completely to the rebels and which the regime is trying to recapture.

On Saturday, 160 people were killed across the country, according to the Observatory, including 65 civilians.





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