with editing by Nina Westbury
Aleppo, Syria (IANS) — Yasir, a 22-year-old handsome Syrian soldier, looked shaken at the Military Hospital in Syria’s second largest city. He is among over 40 soldiers, mostly young, who are recovering from wounds inflicted by an explosion that rocked the bus in which they were travelling Sunday morning.
“For nearly one hour, we tried to resist the attackers, but could not succeed. The firing lasted for nearly two hours,” Yasin, his body criss-crossed with bandaged wounds, told a group of visiting Indian journalists Tuesday. His mother, Soubhiah, looked stricken. “I hope things return to normal soon and my son gets better,” she said while praying for her son’s recovery.
Three more injured soldiers were lying in another room, their bodies bearing marks of senseless assault. Inad al-Nasrawi said he will defend Syria to his dying date even as he smiled through his pain.
Hassan Qubali, a 45-year-old soldier, was injured severely, his stomach pierced in the middle. He sported a stoic look, only saying his duty is to defend his country.
In the Sunday attacks, most soldiers survived, but the driver of the bus was killed. According to Syrian news agency SANA, Sergeant Mohammad Abdul-Hamid al-Ar succumbed to his wounds while 42 others were injured including 13 officers. No group has claimed responsibility for the attacks.
Terrorists, said to be backed by forces ranged against President Bashar Assad, targeted the bus with an explosive device weighing around 50 kg, said Syrian sources.
Nearly five injured soldiers are being brought to the military hospital every day, indicating that rebels have upped the violence.
The anti-Assad protests have become increasingly militarized since they started 13 months ago, but Aleppo, Syria’s commercial hub and a government stronghold, has largely been spared clashes between government forces and rebels.
Patriotism has, however, become a relative concept. The UN monitors have arrived in some parts of Syria to ensure compliance with the ceasefire, but there are attacks and counter-attacks by rebels and government forces almost every day. Both sides claim greater casualties, and accuse each other of perpetrating violence and chaos, with truth often a target in this endless cross-fire.
The UN says 11,000 people have been killed in the 13-month protests. According to Syria’s vice minister for foreign affairs Fayssal Mekdad, the majority of casualties included Syrian security forces, police and civilians. “At least 6,000 Syrian people have been killed by armed terrorist groups,” he said.
The governor of Aleppo was incensed and attributed the attack to the armed gangs who are active in the province. “They only want to destroy Syria and the commercial heart of Aleppo. Aleppo has had many martyrs,” said Aleppo Governor Muwaffaq Khallouf, dressed in a black suit, at his office here.
“They burn houses and demand ransom after kidnapping. They are trying to sabotage commercial activities. But they will not succeed,” he said.
“Syria is committed 100 per cent to the Kofi Annan initiative. There is a conspiracy against Syria. Aleppo’s inhabitants stand with the government,” he said.