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Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Breaking the siege of Aleppo - 21st Century's Paris Commune

There's a lot going on in the battle for Aleppo and with some 300,000 civilians being put at risk, one would think it would have a higher profile in the news than it does, but it doesn't so I have put together this piece on my day off. The action isn't all confined to Aleppo either. Around Idlib the rebels shot down a Russian helicopter yesterday and several hours later another helicopter dropped a couple of barrels of what is believed to be chlorine near by. 33 people got sick. The Russians have denied that there was a chemical attack. Democracy Now mentioned the chemical attack but implied it was another rebel false-flag and failed to mention the very telling helicopter delivery of the CW. Charles Lister has given us a good summary of the current state of affairs in his Monday Briefing for the Middle East Institute:
All Eyes on Aleppo

Now that the siege is in place, no party to the pre-regime alliance can afford to let it slip.

Charles Lister, Senior Fellow
The siege of Aleppo looks set to be a major pivot point in the Syrian crisis. While Russia's intervention in Syria in September 2015 transformed the balance of power on the ground, it was a later Iranian push from early-2016 that facilitated the siege of Aleppo itself. As Iranian-backed pro-regime forces steadily closed in on key strangle points like the Castello Road, Russia saw itself gradually sucked into a battle in which its airpower is now a crucially important factor. Now that the siege is in place, no party to the pre-regime alliance can afford to let it slip.

Contrary to Syrian state media reporting, Aleppo's opposition is highly unlikely to surrender or submit to amnesty. Similarly, Russia's creation of four "humanitarian corridors" leading directly into regime-held territory will induce only fear within the city's civilian residents, who watched similar schemes in Homs in 2014 result in mass arrest and disappearances.

The city's Free Syrian Army-dominated Fatah Halab coalition has been planning for the siege since late-2015, with its senior leaders saying they now intend to adopt guerrilla warfare tactics to retaliate against regime targets. More significant, however, has been the reaction of armed groups outside the city. Commanders from Latakia, Hama, Idlib and Aleppo have coalesced to launch what may be the most substantial opposition operation of the conflict. Personal, political and ideological differences have been shelved in order to prioritize a counter-offensive that within 36-hours looks to have the potential to at least temporarily break the siege of the city. Unsurprisingly, the newly re-branded Jabhat Fatah al-Sham, formerly Jabhat al-Nusra, has assumed a lead role.

Whatever the ultimate outcome, further military escalation and civilian suffering in Aleppo promises only to make political efforts to solve Syria's crisis even harder.

Twitter: @Charles_Lister
The New York Times is reporting on daily life in liberated Aleppo:
Where CPR on a Boy Is Time Wasted: U.S. Doctors Recall Aleppo’s Horrors

By Anne Barnard
31 July 2016
BEIRUT, Lebanon — In the Syrian city of Aleppo, children carrying groceries climb 15-foot mounds of rubble on their way home. Shoppers ignore vibrations from falling bombs. Buildings stand sliced in half, wires and beds and bathtubs exposed, with families still living inside. Most days, doctors have just seconds to decide which children to try to save and which to let die, as parents shriek and explosions shake the ground.

Three American doctors said such scenes were replaying in their minds after a recent visit to the insurgent-held section of Aleppo. The doctors provided a fresh perspective on life there, because their Syrian colleagues in Aleppo, after four years of bombardment by government forces, have grown tired of describing the horrors to the outside world and have, in some sense, stopped noticing. More...
Now Media is reporting how the innovative opposition is creating its own 'no-fly' zone, and giving the phrase "Aleppo Is Burning" a whole new meaning:
Syrians establish 'no-fly zone' over Aleppo

Tired of waiting for foreign assistance, Syrians unilaterally came up with a creative solution to hamper the regime’s deadly air power
2 August 2016
Haid Haid
A no-fly zone was reportedly established in Aleppo on Sunday, July 31, according to Syrian activists. However, this no-fly zone is unconventional as it was not set up via a UN Security Council resolution nor enforced by foreign superpowers. Syrians in Aleppo province created the no-fly zone to support a major offensive launched by Jaysh al-Fatah, a coalition of rebel groups, to break the siege imposed by the Syrian regime on the opposition-held parts of the city. This counter attack came days after pro-Syrian government forces were able to cut off the Castello Road, the only route in and out of rebel-held areas of Aleppo. An estimated 300,000 citizens in Aleppo are currently under siege, which has led to a spiralling rise in food prices due to shortages in opposition neighbourhoods. The use of air power has been Assad’s trump card in the Syrian conflict, which only increased in significance after Russia intervened in support of the Syrian regime in September 2015. To combat this advantage, the rebels’ offensive was also coupled with calls for civilians to create their own no-fly zone by burning tires, which created a big cloud of black smoke to obstruct the view of the planes and limit their influence on the battle. More...
The Guardian has this on the CW attack:
Dozens ill after suspected chlorine attack in Syria

Victims in Saraqeb, Idlib province, have breathing problems, and all are coughing and have bloodshot eyes, say doctors
2 August 2016
More than two dozen people have been injured in a suspected chemical attack on a town in northern Syria, a doctor who treated the victims and aid workers said.
The attack, using a gas cylinder laced with chlorine, targeted the town of Saraqeb in Idlib province, which is under opposition control, and near where a Russian helicopter was shot down on Monday.

It came almost exactly a year after the UN security council adopted a resolution that set a 12 month-deadline to identify the perpetrators of chlorine attacks in Syria. The deadline expires next week.

Ibrahim al-Assaad, a doctor who treated the victims, said none of the 29 injured he saw exhibited physical wounds. “All of them had breathing and lung problems, spanning mild, moderate and severe symptoms, while coughing and having bloodshot eyes,” he said. “They smelled of chlorine, and the civil defence workers who rescued them said the site of the attack also smelled strongly of chlorine.”

“It is impossible to get used to this pain we see,” he added. “Impossible.”

The suspected chemical attack occurred against a backdrop of escalating warfare across Syria and particularly in the neighbouring province of Aleppo, where rebels have launched a wide-ranging offensive to break a weeks-long siege on the opposition-held east of the city. More...

Just another day in Syria. Not a bad day by the standards the world has found acceptable over the past five years. Less than a hundred were killed today. They were all Arabs, so nothing to make the TV news really.

Syria is the Paris Commune of the 21st Century!

Click here for a list of my other blogs on Syria

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