Monday, August 08, 2016

Battle for Aleppo

"We assure the people of Aleppo that whoever enters his home is safe, whoever enters a mosque or a church is safe and whoever lays down his weapon is safe, too."
Free Syrian Army statement

"We have now seized full control of the Ramousah area...We are in our trenches but there are insane air strikes of unprecedented ferociousness. The regime is using cluster and vacuum bombs."
Abu al Hasanien,  senior commander, Fateh Halab, coalition, moderate rebel groups

"[Congratulations on making] spectacular gains [to send] a clear message to the Assad regime, Iran and Russia that they will not be able to defeat the Syrian people or dictate the terms of a settlement."
Opposition Syrian National Coalition (SNC) 

"Most recently I'm hearing that the markets are closed and it's next to impossible to purchase food." "The UN estimates that collectively all aid supplies in east Aleppo will only last about two more weeks." 
Christy Delafield, senior communications officer, Mercy Corps, Syria
Rebel fighters ride a tank in an artillery academy of Aleppo, Syria, August 6, 2016.
Reuters/Ammar Abdullah
Conditions in Aleppo are in flux, but the residents in both west and eastern Aleppo are in dire straits, hoping for food aid at the very least, while around them fighting between the rebel coalition and government forces continue to rage. While the rebels claim to have broken the government siege, denials are issued by the regime through state media, claiming no breach of their blockade had occurred.

On the contrary, state the Syrian government news channels, the regime's forces have extracted maximum punishment to the rebels, killing many; the army has succeeded in causing a withdrawal of rebels from areas they have so recently claimed to have freed from government forces.
The problem in that denial is that pro-Syrian Lebanese channel al Mayadeen has stated the Syrian army had "withdrawn from a number of positions southwest of Aleppo and repositioned itself in new defensive lines".

After which comment was muted from the Syrian military even as the rebels took possession of the Ramousah military complex where various military colleges are situated. Rebels disseminated for good measure photos of the weapons and ammunition that fell into their hands. Jabhat Fatah al-Sham, now independent of al-Qaeda's Nusra Front, posted commanding photos of rows of armoured vehicles, munitions, howitzers, rockets and trucks; just the calibre of equipment rebels have need of.

Jets identified as Russian airplanes streamed over the Aleppo countryside to hit opposition-held Idlib city in north-western Syria as rebels released video footage of giant fiery plumes representing the release of white phosphorus bombs. Government-besieged areas were breached by rebels before sunset on Saturday, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

Civilians in the eastern Aleppo neighbourhoods cannot safely leave, as a result of the intense airstrikes and shelling in the area, despite the arrival of rebel forces.

The United Nations has estimated that between 250,000 and 300,000 people remain trapped in the eastern portion of Aleppo, where the siege locked them in around mid-July. It is a situation that relief organizations as well as the UN have warned represents an oncoming humanitarian catastrophe with deteriorating conditions.

Ahrar al-Sham fighters are shown in a video inside the Artillery Academy, claiming full command of the college. Their goal to break the siege has obviously succeeded, to the chagrin of the regime, still claiming their military has retaken the area from the rebels. Now, citizens in western Aleppo are concerned that the rebels may advance on them, and place them under siege.  

The main route south to Damascus for goods transport, the Ramousah road, has in its turn, been severed.

Rebel fighters prepare their weapons in an artillery academy of Aleppo, Syria, August 6, 2016.
Reuters/Ammar Abdullah


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