Wednesday, July 25, 2012

 Fleeing Aleppo

"I was bending down in the street to clear some rubbish when I saw the helicopter sit still at the junction.  I waited until it fired into a block of flats facing it.  They all collapsed", reported the father of five before squeezing on to a minibus with his wife and five children, leaving Aleppo for a village now under the control of the Free Syrian Army.

Thousands of desperate families crammed themselves into taxis, into vans, into the back of trucks attempting to escape the major battleground in their compatriots' battle against the regime of President Bashar al-Assad, who scorned an offer by the Arab League for safe escort out of Syria.  And who ordered his military to scourge the cities of protests and "terrorists".

By whatever means necessary.  But not necessarily, he informed an international audience, with chemical stockpiles of non-conventional mass murder-potential.  Those he would only employ should an outside source, a foreign body dare enter his domain.  Any such military attempts from foreign elements attached to any states attempting to make war on Syria in support of the terrorists could expect his wrath, and chemical weapons are not, under those circumstances, exempt from use.

But of course, he adds through his spokespeople, there are no stockpiles of chemical weapons.  Perhaps no longer cached where they were being produced, in As Safirah, Latakia, Hama, Homs, Furglus or Kabu Abu Shamot.  Their production and storage, and potential use as threats against enemies of the state just happen to be a figment of the fevered imaginations of Syria's enemies.

The question is: should such stockpiles have been ferried off with Hezbollah, does that Iranian Islamist proxy militia have the required technology to disperse the chemicals?  "...all of these types of weapons - IF ANY - are in storage and under security"

Meanwhile, families also set out on foot, carrying those of their belongings they can manage to trudge along with them in plastic bags, anything that might be useful for the purpose.  Taxi drivers, claimed one activist, were charging $300 to take families out of Aleppo, representing a charge more than the monthly wage of many Syrians.  Opportunity knocks.

The regime is deploying tanks within the rebel-held districts of Aleppo.  One of which was burning in its tracks, hit by a FSA rocket-propelled grenade.  "This is a large-scale hit-and-run battle.  The whole point is to bleed the regime dry.  It is a very long fight, and it will be especially long in Aleppo", said an spokesman from the Islamist rebel group, the Battalions for the Free Men of Syria.

The deadly acrimony between the sects is now so vile and vicious that even those who began the uprising have had second thoughts, seeing the volumes of dead Syrians from each side of the divide.  Some, viewing what they have wrought, wonder what they have wrought, whether they should have, whether their choice would be the same, if they had the opportunity to do it all again.

"Nobody can argue against the president in this system.  The West must step in.  Assad has done ten times more than Gadhafi and still he has not been brought down", said Gen. Abdul Razzaq Laz, a defector as head of the Damascus military academy a short two weeks ago, currently aiding the rebels in Aleppo.

And in Damascus?  "I never thought I would see gunmen clashing with the army on the streets of Damascus, people fleeing their homes.  It's like Lebanon but in reverse", said Nahed, the peace activist.

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