PARIS/damascus: France has allocated ¤1.2m ($1.5m) in emergency aid to the newly formed opposition Syrian National Coalition, Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said yesterday. “The humanitarian situation in Syria is deteriorating. It is imperative that the international community act,” Fabius said in a statement.
“France, which was first to recognise the Coalition as the sole legitimate representative of the Syrian people, now wants to help it come to the aid of its countrymen in distress.”
The French move came as the opposition coalition held a conference in Cairo aimed at drumming up international support.
It also came on the eve of a visit to Paris by Russian Prime Minister Dmitri Medvedev who has been highly critical of France’s action, deeming it “completely unacceptable in international law”.
Medvedev is expected to discuss Syria during talks Tuesday with French President Francois Hollande.
Syria’s opposition coalition was formed earlier this month.
It was quickly recognised by the six member states of the Gulf Cooperation Council: Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, Oman, Qatar and Kuwait.
France then became the first major power to recognise the organisation. Turkey and Britain followed suit but the coalition has failed to win universal backing because of doubts about whether it is genuinely representative of all sections of Syrian society.
The European Union has recognised the coalition as “legitimate representatives” of the Syrian people, but not the sole one.
Meanwhile, a Syrian warplane bombarded the village of Atme near the northwestern border with Turkey yesterday, prompting hundreds of panicked residents to flee, a journalist said. The fighter jet overflew Atme three times at a low altitude and dropped at least six bombs or rockets into populated areas near a school that houses a rebel command centre, without causing any casualties, witnesses said.
The journalist observed six points of impact on three houses, a garden and a road. Residents spoke of three bombs while others said rockets caused the damage.
The rebel command centre, which also houses the Damascus Eagles brigade of the Free Syrian Army, was not affected.
A warplane again bombed the area of Atme and the nearby border crossing of Bab al-Hawa at 3pm. The jet made four sorties, bombing twice, each time using decoys first to avoid possible anti-aircraft fire.
Two plumes of smoke rose over the hills around Bab al-Hawa, the reporter said.
With each overflight, the aircraft verged on Turkish airspace. People familiar with the terrain claimed it had briefly crossed into Turkey, from where the hum of high altitude jets could be heard.
“The MIG flew very low. It made three passes,” according to Mahmud, the owner of one of the damaged houses.
One of the missiles plummeted into his garden, leaving a large crater in the ground, shattering windows and scattering furniture.
“The whole family was in the house. Thank God, nobody was hurt,” he said.
“This is what Bashar sent us to solve the problems of Syria. And thanks to (Recep Tayyip) Erdogan for this no-fly zone,” he said sarcastically, referring to the Syrian president and the Turkish prime minister.
The village of Atme, just two kilometres from the border, was once home to 7,000 people.
Ongoing violence has forced many to seek shelter in a refugee camp in nearby Qaa village, or even in makeshift camps in the surrounding olive groves.AFP