Demonstrators protest near Aleppo
Demonstrators protest near AleppoReuters

The northern trading city of Aleppo, relatively quiet until now, last week was finally dragged into Syria's growing civil war. At least five were killed in an Aleppo suburb after a car wash was bombed by rebels in revenge for the rape of a woman in front of her husband.

The car wash owner was the alleged perpetrator, according to a member of the Free Syrian Army, which claimed responsibility for the attack, according to Reuters in Beirut.

The car wash in the lower class suburb of Tal al-Zarazeer was reportedly used by the members of a force loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

"We placed a bomb inside a car,” said spokesman Ali al-Halabi. “I went to the area afterwards and saw seven bodies and many wounded.” However, the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights placed the death toll at five.

Much of the Syrian Jewish community in the United States originated from the city, once a magnificent center of trading. There are still a few Jews left in the country, although it is not well known, and numerous efforts have been made in past years to try and rescue them or persuade them to leave. Nearly all are elderly, and few are willing to leave.

Until recently, the city has been spared the worst of the violence that has torn apart the country in the growing civil war that began in March 2011 with the Arab Spring uprisings.

But last Thursday four were killed and some 200 others were arrested after government forces and students with knives attacked anti-Assad protesters at the city's university.

Activists reported that at least 37 others were killed Friday when security forces fired on protesters elsewhere around the country.

The presence of United Nations observers has done little to stem the violence, as did the presence of Arab League monitors months ago, and an agreement signed with Assad by envoy Kofi Annan has had little more effect than an earlier deal signed with the Arab  League.

Some 300 observers are expected to be placed in the country, with about 50 already having arrived on the eve of the so-called “ceasefire” that began on April 12, but neither side has ended the firing.

Close to 10,000 civilians have been killed since the uprising began, according to various estimates, although exact figures are impossible due to government blocks on journalists and other impartial observers.