Islamists bomb Kurdish district amid mounting violence in Syria’s Aleppo

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Flags of the Kurdish forces are seen in central Sheikh Maqsoud district in Aleppo, northern Syria. File photo

ARA News

Aleppo – Syrian Islamist groups on Saturday bombed the Kurdish district of Sheikh Maqsoud in Aleppo city with mortar fire, local sources reported.

Militants from the Islamic Movement of Ahrar al-Sham and Jabhat Fateh al-Sham have reportedly hit the Kurdish-populated district with dozens of mortar shells and locally-made ‘hell missiles’. Jabhat Fateh al-Sham is an offshoot of al-Qaeda.

“Islamist groups of Ahrar al-Sham and Fateh al-Sham launched the attack from their bases in al-Shaar neighborhood in eastern Aleppo,” human rights activist Mehvan Mirkhan told ARA News in Aleppo. “They hit Sheikh Maqsoud with dozens of mortars and ‘hell missiles’.”

Saturday’s bombardment targeted residential buildings and a security centre for the Kurdish People’s Proection Units (YPG) in Sheikh Maqsoud.

At least five civilians and two YPG members were reported dead in the attack. Also, over ten others were injured and immediately transferred to a local makeshift hospital in the district.

“Some of the injured are in critical condition,” Doctor Mihemed Hamke, the director of a hospital in Sheikh Maqsoud District, told ARA News.

Dr Hamke added that local rescue teams continued to search for victims under the rubble.

Sheikh Maqsoud has been under a partial siege by Syrian Islamists for over three years. Violence has recently intensified in the district as the YPG have tried to establish a buffer zone.

“Armed groups surrounding the Sheikh Maqsoud District of Aleppo city have repeatedly carried out indiscriminate attacks that have struck civilian homes, streets, markets and mosques,” Amnesty International said in an earlier report about developments in the Kurdish district.

Amnesty International added the militants surrounding Sheikh Maqsoud have been “killing and injuring civilians and displaying a shameful disregard for human life.”

Chemical Attacks

On November 25, Syrian Islamist rebels attacked Sheikh Maqsoud District using conventional and chemical weapons. The outlying district is located in northern Aleppo city and is controlled by the YPG.

Militants from Ahrar al-Sham and Jabhat Fateh al-Sham have reportedly shelled the Kurdish enclave with rockets that contained mustard gas.

The chemical barrage killed at least six people, including two children. Also, more than 15 suffocation cases were reported in Sheikh Maqsoud following the attack.

“The wounded were immediately transferred to a makeshift hospital run by the Kurdish Red Crescent in Sheikh Maqsoud,” a local media activist told ARA News.

Doctor Mihemed Hamke said that investigations showed that the victims were exposed to a chemical agent during the shelling on Friday, 25 November, 2016.

“The injured suffered from suffocation, skin burning and vomiting. These are obvious symptoms of exposure to mustard gas,” Dr Hamke told ARA News.

Friday’s attack was not the first time Syrian Islamists have deployed chemical weapons in Sheikh Maqsoud. Analysts believe that the militants may be using the district to field test their strategic weapons.

On March 8, the same groups struck the Kurdish district with a phosphorus agent, causing dozens of civilian casualties. The YPG’s leadership then released a statement, saying that “extremist groups had launched dozens of rockets filled with a yellow phosphorus element.”

Human rights activist Rezan Hiddo has appealed to the international community and human rights organizations to intervene and stop the attacks on Sheikh Maqsoud. He emphasized that the Kurdish district suffers from an acute shortage of medicine.

Reporting by: Helin Saeed | Source: ARA News

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