The Syrian Revolution General Commission said 360 people had been killed while standing in bread lines or inside bakeries through late December and more than 500 were wounded. McClatchy couldnt verify this total, but based on detailed accounts of several of the biggest attacks concluded that well over 200 people have been killed.
Such attacks also have grown in frequency, coinciding with the growing success of the rebels.
In the first seven months of last year, there were 17 attacks on bakeries and bread lines, according to the two groups. That number then quickly shot up after the rebels launched offensives in Damascus and Aleppo in July. In August alone, there were 18 such attacks, all but two in Aleppo. There were 10 attacks in September, 14 in October, 14 in November and 21 in December. In the first half of this month, there were at least six more attacks on bread lines or bakeries.
By far, the biggest number of assaults was in Aleppo, where the two groups counted 41 attacks. The World Food Program reported in December that there was no bread in Aleppo, a town now said to be 60 to 70 percent under the control of rebel forces. In second place were Homs, where there were at least 15 attacks on bread lines or bakeries, and the capital of Damascus and the surrounding countryside. The groups reported eight attacks on bread lines or bakeries in the northeastern city of Idlib and six in the southwestern city of Deir el Zour.
Up to now, the United Nations hasnt made an issue of the bread line attacks, according to Amanda Pitt, the head of media relations for the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, which overseas policy on Syria. I havent heard any reports on this specifically, she told McClatchy in an email.
The U.N. World Food Program, which manages the distribution of international aid into Syria, is aware of more than two dozen bombings of bakeries, a spokeswoman said. However, the U.N. body declined to issue a statement condemning the bombings. As a U.N. organization, the World Food Program has to obtain Syrian government permission to distribute food in the country, and it relies on the Syrian Arab Red Crescent, whose top appointees are said to be close to the Syrian government, for food distribution. The World Food Program has no independent access to the 60 percent of the country thats said to be in rebel hands.
The U.S. Agency for International Development said it would have no immediate comment, but U.S. officials said the agency was well aware of the Syrian governments practice of targeting bakeries.
The World Food Program seemed to play down the possibility that regime attacks on bakeries and bread lines were deliberate. We are concerned about the fact that many bakeries are unable to operate because of lack of fuel, lack of ingredients, lack of capacity and damage as the result of the conflict, spokeswoman Abeer Etefa told McClatchy. She said the program wasnt mandated with commenting on the responsibilities of any side.
Halfaya wasnt the only highly lethal attack. Human Rights Watch said 60 people were killed and 76 wounded in an attack on the Qadi Askar neighborhood of Aleppo city on Aug. 16, and at least 23 people were killed and more than 30 wounded in an attack in the Bab al Hadid area of Aleppo on Aug. 21.