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Watch the Syrian rebel assault on Aleppo's prison


View the Aleppo Prison battle in a larger map

 

On Wednesday, Syrian rebels in the northeast outskirts of the flashpoint city of Aleppo made an ambitious attempt to storm the city's main prison, setting off two car bombs near the jail's entrance at dawn, according to the Associated Press. The AP, citing the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, reports that Syrian warplanes prevented the opposition fighters from breaking though the prison's inner walls.

The rebels were driven back even though they appear to have been observing the neighborhood for days, according to videos uploaded to YouTube. One, posted last week, shows a rebel pointing out a "counterterrorism building" down the street from the prison, while another, filmed as the attack began, shows a truck-mounted machine gun tucked away in a shelter overlooking the prison. A third appears to have been filmed from the opposite side of the prison complex, looking back toward the village where the machine gun was located.

 

At some point in the fighting, the rebels appear to have breached a wall near the prison. Below watchtowers, fighters take turns shooting AK-47s through holes in the plaster. One rebel, in the video below, tells the camera, "We have assembled more than 5,000 mujahideen ready to liberate the prison and to help the brothers and fight for the brothers.... We are mujahideen and we will liberate the prisoners in the central prison!" When he calls on his comrades to chant "God is great!" though, they sound disheartened.

 

According to the AP, the rebels have since withdrawn from the vicinity of the prison.

UPDATE: The Telegraph reports rebels have said they withdrew from the area of the prison to prevent more casualties after government forces began executing prisoners and throwing the bodies from windows.

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Where should you take shelter during a cyclone? There's a map for that.

In the latest example of crisis-mapping during natural disasters, the World Food Program's GIS Coordinator, Fabrice Recalt, has charted out the trajectory and intensity of Cyclone Mahasen and also made a map of available storm shelters, with detailed information on their facilities and potential vulnerability to the storm (everything from number of toilets to available water supply to date of construction).

 

The "digital humanitarian response" trend of compiling such crucial information has been extremely important in past disasters such as Typhoon Pablo in the Philippines, when geotagged tweets referencing previously publicized disaster hashtags (as in #PabloPH) were mapped out and provided to disaster response teams. The United Nations has embraced crisis-mapping as well.

Cyclone Mahasen, which hit Bangladesh on Thursday and threatens more than 8 million people, including displaced Rohingya Muslims in Burma, has so far mainly affected residents of fishing villages, who may not have benefitted much from Recalt's map. The category 1 cyclone has reportedly killed at least 12 people so far, making the storm much less serious than Cyclone Nargis in 2008, which left more than 130,000 people dead, and it is expected to dissipate within the next 24 hours. But had the storm been more serious, initiatives like Recalt's may have helped save lives.

(h/t Mari Ramos)

MUNIR UZ ZAMAN/AFP/Getty Images