Douma regime airstrikes spark vows of rebel revenge
BEIRUT: Syrian rebel groups vowed over the weekend to step up their rocket attacks against regime-held areas of the country in a bid to “avenge” the pounding of the rebel-held Damascus suburb of Douma by regime airstrikes.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based monitoring group, said the first 10 days of the month saw 183 people killed in Douma, 55 of them women and children, by regime airstrikes.
Activists in the area staged an event addressed to the international community, which the opposition at large complains is focused only on the atrocities committed by the jihadi group ISIS.
A number of children were photographed in a cage, recreating the gruesome video released by ISIS last month that purported to show the immolation of a captured Jordanian pilot, Lt. Moaz al-Kassasbeh, from the U.S.-led coalition that has targeted the jihadis in Syria and Iraq.
The children were dressed in orange jumpsuits similar to those worn by ISIS captives and held signs bearing slogans condemning the lack of international action against the indiscriminate targeting of civilian areas in Douma.
“We saw your media when the Jordanian pilot was burned, but we don’t see your media when the children of Douma are burned,” one sign read.
The event, activists said, was staged at the site of a recent airstrike in Douma that killed several dozen civilians, among them children.
Supporters of the opposition have launched several social media campaigns, including a twitter campaign entitled “Douma exterminated,” to publicize the effort.
The Islam Army, a powerful militia based in Douma and the eastern Ghouta suburbs of Damascus, has periodically stepped up rocket and mortar fire targeting what it says are regime targets in the capital.
Its leader Zahran Alloush has come in for criticism recently by some opposition supporters who argue that causing civilian casualties in Damascus has no military or political benefit for the rebel cause, but only harms it.
In the wake of recent regime airstrikes on Douma and the Ghouta suburbs, Alloush has said that he would not issue any further warnings of imminent rebel barrages to residents of Damascus.
His Islam Army militia Saturday carried out a commando raid in the Wafidin refugee camp area of the eastern Ghouta suburbs.
The group claimed that its fighters killed 16 regime troops from the elite Republican Guard and managed to seize the corpses of some of the fatalities, who included officers.
The Observatory also reported the incident, saying 11 regime troops were killed along with an unspecified number of rebel fighters.
Militias other than the Islam Army have claimed they will step up the targeting of regime-held areas and on Sunday, air raid sirens sounded in Damascus as a mortar bomb targeted the “Mezzeh 86” loyalist neighborhood in the western part of the capital, according to a Facebook page dedicated to the security situation.
It said the mortar bomb failed to explode, however.
The Observatory also reported the attack, adding that information about casualties was unavailable.
Also to avenge the Douma airstrikes, the powerful Ahrar al-Sham Islamist militia said it targeted Qardaha, the hometown of Syrian President Bashar Assad, with Grad rockets on Saturday.
The Observatory reported the attack but said it injured no one, as the rockets struck a wooded area on the town’s outskirts.
Rebel-fired mortar bombs and rockets also struck near the city of Latakia, a regime stronghold, Sunday, multiple sources said, but no fatalities were reported.
The Sham Legion rebel group on Saturday promised to step up its attacks on regime-held areas throughout the country as part of the “support Douma” campaign, which it said would include the use of Katyushas and Grad rockets.
It distributed video footage and photographs of what it said were its fighters firing Grad rockets at the Shiite village of Foa in Idlib province, as well as the Shiite villages of Nubl and Zahraa in Aleppo province.
The Observatory said one person was killed Saturday and a number of others wounded by a rocket attack in Nubl and Zahraa.