David Hedengren
Last updated: 4 September, 2012

Horrible video: Syrian government forces attack civilians waiting for bread

Syrian government forces dropped bombs and fired artillery on at least 10 bakeries in the Aleppo province in August, killing hundreds of civilians waiting for bread. Warning for strong scenes in the video.

The heavy fighting in the Syrian city of Aleppo has closed many bakeries and caused a shortage of flour. As a result people in Aleppo are forced to line up in long queues to get bread for their families. On at least 10 occasions government forces have attacked such bread lines using artillery helicopters and fighter jets. Several of these attacks killed and wounded dozens of civilians, according to Human Rights Watch (HRW).

“Ten bakery attacks is not random – they show no care for civilians and strongly indicate an attempt to target them,” said HRW emergency researcher Ole Solvang.

The human rights organisation recently released a video showing horrific scenes following an attack on August 21, when a bomb from a helicopter hit a bread line at the Aqyoul bakery in the Bab al-Hadid area of Aleppo, killing at least 23 people and wounding more than 30. Another attack, on August 16, killed up to 60 people and wounded more than 70.

“There was black smoke everywhere, and broken glass. The bomb hit the corner of the street, and the shrapnel flew straight into the line – everyone still there was either killed or heavily injured. I saw one guy on the ground without a leg, another without an arm, then a 16-year-old boy whom I knew, Rafat Makik Halak, without a head,” one witness told HRW.

The ten attacks took place in towns and neighbourhoods where there was no active fighting before or during the attack. On one occasion a FSA facility was located roughly 150 meters from the bakery, but was not damaged. In the cases investigated by the organisation, no military targets except a few FSA fighters maintaining order were seen in the area.

“After the attack on the Qadi Askar bakery that same morning we had become very nervous about bakeries. But people lined up anyway – they need bread. When the first shell struck, however, everybody fled. There were several children among the wounded,“ an FSA fighter whose right arm was wounded in an attack on August 16 told HRW.

“These repeated attacks are either deliberate attacks on civilians or they are reckless indiscriminate attacks, both of which are war crimes. Any pilot who launches a rocket against a line of civilians or any commander who gives an order to do so should face justice for their crimes,” said Solvang.