Casualties as rocket hits near Damascus trade fair held to promote war-torn Syria’s international image
China among list of attendees at Syria’s first international trade fair in five years
Rocket fire killed at least four people Sunday near the entrance to the Damascus International Fair, a key business gathering being held for the first time in five years.
State television, citing its reporters on the scene, said the rocket hit near the entrance of the exhibition complex where the business fair opened last week.
The breaking news alert gave no details on the number of injured or the source of the rocket fire, and there was no immediate mention of the incident on state news agency SANA.
However at least four people were killed and four others wounded, Xinhua reported.
“We were preparing to receive visitors when I heard an explosion... then I saw smoke so the side of the of the entrance to the exhibition hall,” said Iyad Jaber, 39, a Syrian working at a textile stand.
The Damascus International Fair was once the top event on Syria’s economic calendar, but was last held in the summer of 2011, months after the start of a revolt against President Bashar al-Assad’s government.
This year’s fair opened on Thursday, and was scheduled to last 10 days.
The flags of 23 nations participating directly, and 20 others represented by companies, lined the entrance to the exhibition in the capital Damascus . Iran and Russia - which have stood by Assad throughout the conflict - as well as China top the list of attendees.
The fair’s general director, Fares al-Kartally, said the decision to hold the fair this year was a result of “the return of calm and stability in most regions” of Syria.
“We want this fair to signal the start of (the country’s) reconstruction,” Kartally said last week.
While Damascus has been insulated from much of the worst violence of the country’s war, several key rebel enclaves remain in the Eastern Ghouta region outside the city.
Fighters in the area have regularly fired rockets into the capital, and government warplanes have frequently carried out devastating raids across Eastern Ghouta.
But in recent weeks, much of the area has been quieter after the implementation in July of a “de-escalation zone” covering parts of Eastern Ghouta.
The United States and European countries, which have imposed sanctions on Assad’s government, were not officially invited to participate in the fair, which was first held in 1954.
SANA said firms from France, Germany and the UK would be represented through agents.
More than 330,000 people have been killed in Syria since the conflict began in March 2011 with anti-government protests.
Agence France-Presse, Bloomberg