Damascus, April 26 - Syrian military officials acknowledged today that a barrage of rockets fired at the rebel stronghold of Idlib yesterday may have missed their target and hit a position of military value. Seven insurgents were killed in the blast, according to opposition sources.
General Aryuf Aqqinqiddenmi of the Syrian Army told journalists this afternoon that four Scud missiles were fired at the one remaining hospital in Idlib Tuesday morning, but a software malfunction caused them to overshoot the target and instead strike a series of fortifications used by opposition forces. He promised an investigation into the mishap, which he said does not reflect the culture or policies of the army.
Addressing a press conference at the Ministry of Defense, General Aqqinqiddenmi told attendees that the military regrets the error and will conduct a thorough inspection of remaining missile stocks to prevent a recurrence. "We regret the error," offered the contrite senior officer. "The army in no way intended to hit non-civilian targets; it is not our way."
Others in the Assad administration called for the implementation of safeguards to forestall such an outcome again. "There has to be a way to minimize these blunders," insisted Baath Party official Ayhaf Bludlust. "I hate to invoke the Zionists here, but they have a mechanism, which for some reason they use in the opposite way, under which all strike orders are first run by the Military Adjutant, who determines how the projected impact on noncombatants squares with the Laws of Armed Conflict. Of course in our case we would take a different approach to the answers. It also wouldn't prevent technical snafus such as yesterdays, but you have to take every possible measure."
Errant projectiles have killed opposition fighters instead of civilians before, noted Bludlust, but investigations determined that those incidents resulted from soldier fatigue and battlefield stress. "Soldiers make mistakes," he acknowledged. "The question is whether those mistakes point to a systemic problem. In most, of not all, of the previous cases where non-noncombatant deaths were the primary outcome, our oversight concluded that there was nothing systemic about these unfortunate incidents. But perhaps more is called for."
General Aqqinqiddenmi added that he and his colleagues had already appealed to allies such as Russia, which has extensive experience with the matter, even in Syria itself. "We've been calling the opposition 'terrorists' since this war began," he noted. "But Syria has such a long record of harboring and supporting terrorists that, despite the political disagreements, we can't bring ourselves to actually target them. So ethnic cleansing and genocide of the civilian population will have to do."