Syria: Assad forces bombed areas hit by earthquake hours after disaster
Syrian government forces struck areas badly affected by Monday's earthquake shortly after the disaster took place, according to Syrian sources and British politicians.
British MP Alicia Kearns, who chairs the Foreign Affairs Committee, said in a statement on Tuesday that President Bashar al-Assad launched a "truly callous and heinous attack" on Marea, a town in northwestern Syria affected by the earthquake, in the hours after it took place.
A military source stationed near the location confirmed the incident to Middle East Eye, saying there were “no material or human losses.”
"Everyone was preoccupied with the earthquake disaster," he added.
'I heard the sound of several shells falling on the outskirts of the area around 2am'
- Resident of Marea
A civilian source said the shelling happened less than two hours after the earthquake, which has so far resulted in the deaths of more than 6,100 people across Turkey and Syria.
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"I heard the sound of several shells falling on the outskirts of the area around 2am," the source said.
Mamoun al-Khatib, an activist based in Marea, told MEE that four or five shells had struck the area.
Syrian military reinforcements - about five tanks and other military vehicles - were also spotted heading towards Suweida province, southern Syria, on Monday morning.
British Foreign Secretary James Cleverly described the attack on Marea as "completely unacceptable."
"Sadly it speaks to a long-standing pattern of behaviour by the Assad regime, a regime that we condemn, have sanctioned and will continue to bring about sanctions - working with our international friends and partners - to try and prevent behaviour like this occurring again," he said, according to Sky News.
In Syria, at least 1,622 people have been killed and more than 3,600 people have been injured since the earthquake struck.
The World Health Organisation’s senior emergency officer for Europe, Catherine Smallwood, speaking to AFP, said that the final death toll could be as much as 20,000.
“There’s continued potential of further collapses to happen so we do often see in the order of eight-fold increases on the initial numbers,” she said, when the death toll stood at 2,600.
“We always see the same thing with earthquakes, unfortunately, which is that the initial reports of the numbers of people who have died or who have been injured will increase quite significantly in the week that follows,” Smallwood added.
Given the scale of the crisis, more than 40 countries have provided emergency aid and assistance to Turkey and Syria.
The WHO said that up to 23 million could be impacted by the fallout from the earthquake.
This article is available in French on Middle East Eye French edition.
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