Syrian Government Clashes with Rebels in Quake-Hit Region

Syrian Government Clashes with Rebels in Quake-Hit Region

According to the London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR), Syrian government troops fought with rebel forces in the region devastated by the earthquakes of February 6 on Thursday night, the first battles in the affected area since the disaster occurred.

According to SOHR, government forces shelled the outskirts of Atareb, a town in rebel-held northwestern Syria that suffered at least 235 casualties from the quake. Heavy machine gun fire was also exchanged between rebel and government forces in the area. 

SOHR reported additional skirmishes near Saraqeb, a northwestern town held by government forces, and shelling of villages in the rebel-held Hama region.

Previous reports of a deteriorating security situation in the quake zone made some humanitarian organizations nervous enough to suspend rescue operations.

“There are increasing reports of clashes between different groups, and shots are said to have been fired,” Germany’s International Search and Rescue (ISAR) said Saturday.

A man walks past collapsed buildings following a devastating earthquake in the town of Jinderis, Aleppo province, Syria, Tuesday, February 14, 2023. The death toll from the earthquakes of Feb. 6, that struck Turkey and northern Syria is still climbing. (AP Photo/Ghaith Alsayed)

ISAR operations manager Steven Bayer said shortages of food and water would increase tensions, as would the rising sense of hopelessness among quake victims. 

ISAR and the other organizations that paused operations said they would resume as soon as the security situation in the area improved. The Austrian Defense Ministry said on Sunday that its Disaster Relief Unit resumed working after the Turkish military offered protection.

Outside of the quake zone, Syrian state media reported on Friday that at least 53 civilians were killed by Islamic State jihadis in an attack on the central province of Homs. According to the report, the victims were shot in the head execution-style while attempting to gather desert truffles.

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[By: John Hayward

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