SYRIA

Syria announces presidential election as air strikes kill dozens in Aleppo

PUBLISHED : Monday, 21 April, 2014, 7:44pm
UPDATED : Monday, 21 April, 2014, 7:44pm

Syria will hold a presidential election on June 3, the speaker of parliament said on Monday, setting a date for a vote likely to give President Bashar al-Assad a third term days after he said his forces were winning the country’s civil war.

Dozens of people have been killed in air strikes on the northern Syrian city of Aleppo, a monitoring group said on Monday, including at least 29 people in a single neighbourhood.

Also on Monday, state news agency SANA said two people were killed when mortars struck central Damascus.

The opposition Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said air strikes killed 29 people on Sunday, including women and children, in the southern Al-Ferdous district of Aleppo, a city that was once Syria’s largest and a major commercial hub.

Another 14 people were killed in the Baeedeen neighbourhood in “barrel bomb” attacks – strikes in which helicopters drop highly destructive improvised explosives – the group said. A further five died in barrel bomb attacks in the village of Tlajabin, it added.

Western powers have condemned the use of barrel bombs as a war crime, but they continue to fall nearly every day in Aleppo and other parts of Syria.

SANA said two people were killed in Damascus when mortars fired by “terrorists” – its term for rebel fighters - hit the Al-Salihiya neighbourhood of the capital and a nearby area.

Assad is facing a three-year-old conflict against his rule that has killed more than 150,000 people and forced millions from their homes.

Under Syria’s constitution the election is due by July, though the international powers that back Assad’s opponents have described plans to hold it as a “parody of democracy”.

Assad has not said whether he will stand in the election, but his allies in Russia and in Lebanon’s Shi’ite movement Hezbollah have predicted he will stand and win.

Announcing the election on state television, parliamentary speaker Mohamed Jihad al-Laham said requests for nomination would be accepted until May 1. Voting for Syrians outside the country would take place at Syrian embassies on May 28, he said.

Assad said in mid-April that the conflict had reached a “turning point” due to his forces’ military gains against the rebels, state media reported.

More than 150,000 people have been killed in Syria’s conflict, which started as a peaceful protest movement against President Bashar al-Assad’s rule in March 2011 and turned into civil war after a government crackdown.