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Explosions kill 83 at Syrian university as exams begin
Published Wednesday 16/01/2013 (updated) 19/01/2013 16:39
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Syrian security personnel and civilians gather at the site where two
explosions rocked the University of Aleppo in Syria's second largest
city, January 15, 2013. (Reuters/George Ourfalian)

BEIRUT (Reuters) -- Two explosions tore through one of Syria's biggest universities on the first day of student exams on Tuesday, killing 83 people and wounding dozens, a monitoring group said.

Bloodshed has disrupted civilian life across Syria since a violent government crackdown in early 2011 on peaceful demonstrations for democratic reform turned the unrest into an armed insurgency bent on overthrowing President Bashar Assad.

More than 50 countries asked the United Nations Security Council on Tuesday to refer the crisis to the International Criminal Court, which prosecutes people for genocide and war crimes. But Russia - Assad's long-standing ally and arms supplier - blocked the initiative, calling it "ill-timed and counterproductive."

Each side in the 22-month-old conflict blamed the other for Tuesday's blasts at the University of Aleppo, located in a government-held area of Syria's most populous city.

Some activists in Aleppo said a government attack caused the explosions, while state television accused "terrorists" - a term they often use to describe the rebels - of firing two rockets at the school. A rebel fighter said the blasts appeared to have been caused by "ground-to-ground" missiles.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based monitoring group, said 83 people were killed and dozens wounded, but it could not identify the source of the blasts.

"Dozens are in critical condition," the Observatory said in a statement, citing doctors and students.

State television showed a body lying on the street and several cars burning. One of the university buildings was damaged.

Video footage showed students carrying books out of the university after one of the explosions, walking quickly away from rising smoke. The camera then shakes to the sound of another explosion and people begin to run.

"A cowardly terrorist act targeted the students of Aleppo University as they sat for their mid-term examinations," Syria's United Nations ambassador, Bashar Jaafari, told the UN Security Council in New York. He said 82 students had died and 162 more were wounded.

If confirmed, the government's report of a rocket attack would suggest rebels in the area had been able to obtain and deploy more powerful weapons than previously used.

The nearest rebel-controlled area, Bustan al-Qasr, is more than a mile away from the university.

Activists rejected the suggestion that insurgents were behind the attack, however, and instead blamed the government.

"The warplanes of this criminal regime do not respect a mosque, a church or a university," said a student who gave his name as Abu Tayem.

Grinding toward stalemate

The rebels have been trying to take Aleppo - once a thriving commercial hub - since the summer, but have been unable to uproot Assad's better-armed and more organized forces.

International efforts to find a political solution to Syria's civil war have similarly resulted in stalemate, even as the conflict's death toll surged above 60,000.

The crisis has driven hundreds of thousands of people to flee the country, many to neighboring Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey, where a fire at a camp in the country's southeast killed a pregnant Syrian woman and her three children on Tuesday.

Inside Syria, neither the military nor the insurgents have been able to sustain clear momentum.

The rebels remain poorly equipped and disorganized compared with Assad's forces, despite winning support from some regional powers like Turkey and Saudi Arabia.

The government also benefits from superior air power, used to pummel rebel-held areas around Damascus and elsewhere.

Rebel efforts to assault the capital also appear to have ground toward a stalemate. A witness in a rebel-controlled district of Damascus said on Tuesday the front line between the two sides was quiet.

The streets were still full of civilians, the witness said, despite the sound of shells hitting nearby buildings. He said people were walking around, buying sweets and sandwiches.
1 ) Munir / .ps
16/01/2013 12:22
such a poor news report ? everyone knows who did the attack and why.

2 ) Mel / Gaza
16/01/2013 19:59
To target students while they are having exams is just horrific! Shame on whoever did this!

3 ) Munir / .ps
16/01/2013 22:12
al qaida/fsa did the attack.

4 ) Mel / USA
18/01/2013 03:06
#2:Mel/Gaza: I agree! And as TOUGH as Assad has been before,he HAS NEVER treated students,youngsters in Syria this way! EVER! He has ALWAYS promoted,taken PRIDE in,good Syrian education,colleges,universities. BUT, al-Qaida,Salafists,extremists DO NOT value this quality education,or life.SO, SHAME on our USG,NATO nations for funding,ARMING these savage mercenaries who put regressive tribalism,before progressive education.It had to be NATO-proxies FSA-al-Qaida who did this.The barbaric b*st*rds.

5 ) Israeli1 / Israel
18/01/2013 07:06
The would be leaders of Syria killed the students. In Syria now, it is kill or be killed. The Alawi will fight to the end, as will the Kurds and Druze and Christians. And Sunni. They aim to wipe each other out. And people wonder why we want to rule ourselves? Syria can have it's so called secular democratic state - and all the death and misery. We prefer the Jewish state.

6 ) @5 / zeevi/khazakhstan
18/01/2013 15:07
so do we . try florida

7 ) Mel / USA
18/01/2013 19:19
#5: Israeli1/Israel:U sound as tho' u seriously believe Zionist-led Israel was/is founded in progressive democracy,tolerance,rule-of-international-law?Whereas Zionism ALSO swore,2 kill to"the end"any non-Jews who resisted the white-supremacist-colonial state of ISRAEL! Zionism nurtures"death&misery"of Arabs,& utilizes monotheist extremists 2 do its ethno-THEOCRATIC dirty work 4 it.Secular"Alawi"have sheltered regional refugees from Islamic&JEWISH extremo-savages,who"prefer" 2 kill ANY children!

8 ) Peter / USA
19/01/2013 16:38
# 5 you have a drug problem its called Ziocaine
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