Syrian Olympic Official Defends Army Assault on Aleppo, Says Soldiers Are Protecting People
The head of the Syrian Olympic team offered a delicate defense of the Syrian army on Saturday while it pounded his own home city from helicopters to flush out rebels.
Maher Khayata told The Associated Press he was worried about his family, trapped in the city of Aleppo during one of the most significant battles of a 17-month uprising against the government of Bashar Assad.
Khayata said the army was trying to “protect people and keep them safe,” and said the expulsion of the armed opposition from Aleppo is “maybe the way to stop bloodshed throughout Syria.”
Acknowledging his sensitive position, he said: “I am a sportsman, not a politician.”
Back home, Syrian forces moved to wrest Aleppo neighborhoods from rebel hands in fierce fighting that has raised fears among activists and the international community that a massacre could be looming.
The athletes are competing at the Olympics to present “a good image of Syria and achieve good results,” Khayata said.