The UK has condemned the Syrian president for his forces’ “heinous” bombing of a rebel-held town shortly after it was rocked by a deadly 7.8 magnitude earthquake.
The chair of the foreign affairs committee told colleagues that the opposition-held enclave in northwestern Syria came under attack as residents attempted to rescue neighbours and family members from buildings flattened by the quake.
Alica Kearns’ statement came after rescue teams from the White Helmets issued a letter to leaders urging them to pressure Damascus “to ensure that there is no bombing in the affected areas”.
“Yesterday, he bombed Marea, which was an area affected by the earthquake, in what was a truly callous and heinous attack and opportunism for him to try to attack and destroy the moderate opposition,” Ms Kearns told MPs on Tuesday.
Foreign secretary James Cleverly also criticised the Assad regime for the “completely unacceptable bombing” of Marea in the wake of the natural disaster.
Responding to Ms Kearns’ statement, he said she was “absolutely right to highlight the completely unacceptable bombing of areas in the immediate aftermath of this natural disaster.”
“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 to prevent behaviour like this occurring again,” he added.
Mr Cleverely also confirmed that three British nationals were missing following the earthquake and that the FCDO’s crisis response bub was assisting 35 Britons caught up in the disaster.
In Syria, aid efforts have been hampered by the ongoing war and the isolation of the rebel-held region along the border, which is surrounded by Russia-backed government forces.
Syria itself is an international pariah under western sanctions linked to the war.
The region sits on top of major fault lines and is frequently shaken by earthquakes. Some 18,000 were killed in similarly powerful earthquakes which hit north-west Turkey in 1999.