Syrian activists call for no-fly zone
Representatives of a Syrian opposition civil society group have called on the UK to back a no-fly zone in Syria.
Planet Syria, a network of more than 100 civil society groups working across Syria, briefed MPs and journalists at the Houses of Parliament in London before a parliamentary foreign affairs select committee meeting on Syria.
The panel assembled by Planet Syria argued that the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad was the root cause of the conflict in Syria, and, by extension, the refugee crisis that is now hitting Europe, as Syrians flee their homeland in their millions.
"We asked activists how the world can help... People on the ground are specifically asked for a no-fly zone," Mustafa Haid, a spokesperson for Planet Syria and the chairperson of Syrian nonprofit Dawlaty, told al-Araby al-Jadeed.
"We came to deliver their message, people under the barrel bombs are asking for this," Haid added.
The imposition of a no-fly zone would almost certainly involve a barrage of bombing raids against Assad's many airbases, refuelling infrastructure, storage hangars and other facilities spread around the country. Such operations are rarely casualty-free.
Haid, as well as his fellow spokesperson Assaad al-Achi, an economist before he became an activist, relayed their own experiences in Syria.
They also highlighted the damage caused by barrel bombs, which were described by Human Rights Watch in August as a greater threat to Syrian lives than the Islamic State group that has ravaged parts of Syria and Iraq.
"Syrians have described to me the sheer terror of waiting the 30 seconds or so for the barrel bomb to tumble to earth from a helicopter hovering overhead, not knowing until near the very end where its deadly point of impact will be," HRW executive director Kenneth Roth said.
The British parliament rejected a move by Prime Minister David Cameron for military action against Assad in 2013, a vote that eventually weakened US President Barack Obama's resolve to attack the Syrian regime, following a chemical weapons attack that killed hundreds of civilians in Damascus.
Activists, however, argue that prior inaction by the international community and the non-implementation of various UN resolutions against Assad have led to the current catastrophic situation, and that a no-fly zone would not involve Western troops fighting on the ground.