ALEPPO — Four Syrians Armenians 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, Tigran Balayan suggested that the Armenians were shot by Syrian rebels. “The main road stretching from the airport was closed and they had to go home through another way where they appeared under fire of rebels,” Tigran Balayan said.
However, an unnamed friend of victims 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.”
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.
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 flights between 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.”