Four Syrians of Armenian descent were killed and at least 11 others wounded near Aleppo airport on Tuesday night shortly after the latest flight from Yerevan to Syria’s commercial capital.
Syrian Armenian sources said on Wednesday that three of them -- Harut Suvarian, Mesrop Ajemian and Hrach Pepejian -- were returning home from the airport after a trip to Armenia. The other victim, Pepejian’s father Arsen, was said to have gone to the airport to collect his son.
“The wounded persons were taken to the French hospital in Aleppo and their condition is now good,” Raffi Tashjian, a Syrian Armenian man based in Yerevan, told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am), citing his contacts in Aleppo.
A spokesman for Armenia’s Foreign Ministry suggested that the Armenians were shot by Syrian rebels. However, an unnamed friend of theirs told the AFP news agency, “It's not obvious who opened fire, but the result is that five cars were attacked and four
Armenians were killed and 13 or 14 others were wounded.”
“Some say it was the FSA (Free Syrian Army), but it's not clear. We don't have proof and we should wait and see. I don't think the FSA would attack random cars in the street.”
He said one of those killed “had left his family behind in Armenia, his wife and kids. He had gone back to take care of some things in Aleppo and then return.”
The deadly incident occurred amid fighting between Syrian government troops and rebels reported in the Nayrab area, around five kilometers (three miles) from Aleppo airport. It raised to at least 19 the total number of ethnic Armenians that are known to have been killed in Syria’s bloody civil strife so far.
There were an estimated 80,000 ethnic Armenians in Syria, mostly concentrated in Aleppo, when the conflict broke out in early 2011. Hundreds of them have taken refuge in Armenia since fighting reached the city in July.
Around 150 Syrian Armenians arrived in Yerevan on board a Syrian Air commercial jet on Tuesday evening. The plane took about 100 others back to Aleppo.
Both Syrian Air and Armenia’s Armavia national airline continue to carry out regular betweens the two cities despite the worsening security situation. Armavia resumed its weekly flight service on Monday after a one-week pause which it attributed to the FSA’s reported threats to shoot down aircraft entering the country.
Some of the newly arrived passengers at Yerevan’s Zvartnots airport said on Tuesday that gun battles are moving closer to Aleppo’s Armenian-populated neighborhoods. “Things are getting worse now,” one man told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am). “But we still hope that they will improve.”
Citing the the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, AFP reported that the Syrian army shelled a string of neighborhoods in central Aleppo on Wednesday.