Gennifer Flowers at Debate? Just Making a Point, Says Team Trump
Ashley Parker, Maggie Halberman, NYT, Sep 25 2016

Donald Trump’s campaign moved on Sunday to squelch reports set off by the candidate himself that Gennifer Flowers, the woman whose affair with Bill Clinton imperiled his 1992 presidential campaign, would be Trump’s guest on Monday at his first debate with Hillary Clinton. In television interviews on Sunday morning, Trump’s running mate Mike Pence flatly denied that Flowers would attend the debate, at Hofstra University on Long Island. And Trump’s campaign manager, Kellyanne Conway, said that in threatening on Saturday to invite Flowers, Trump had merely been making a point. “He wants to remind people that he’s a great counterpuncher,” Conway said on ABC’s “This Week.” The specter of Flowers’s attendance arose during a skirmish of psychological warfare between the two campaigns and their supporters in the run-up to Monday night. Mark Cuban, the voluble billionaire who owns the Dallas Mavericks basketball team and is supporting Clinton, announced on Twitter on Thursday that Clinton’s campaign had given him a front-row seat at the debate to watch her “overwhelm” Trump.

Cuban, who once hosted a short-lived reality television show called “The Benefactor” and more recently offered $10m to the charity of Trump’s choice if he would let Cuban interview him for four hours about his “policies and their substance,” suggested the debate would become known as the “Humbling at Hofstra. On Saturday, Trump responded even more provocatively:

The thrice-married Trump, whose second marriage grew out of an affair during his first one, has repeatedly raised Bill Clinton’s infidelities as a character attack against Hillary Clinton. Several of Trump’s advisers have a long history of calling attention to Clinton’s scandals. Flowers herself lent credence to the idea: “Yes I will be there,” she wrote in a text message to the NYT on Saturday. She did not respond to follow-up messages on Sunday. Each campaign receives tickets from the Commission on Presidential Debates to give to supporters at its discretion, and campaigns often engage in mind games when picking guests, as appeared to be the case with Clinton’s choice of Cuban. But inviting Flowers would be in a different category. Clinton denied Flowers’s claim of an affair, but years later, when asked in a deposition whether he had engaged in “sexual relations” with Flowers, he admitted having done so one time, in 1977. Flowers has accused Clinton in recently broadcast interviews of being an “enabler” and has said the scandal is a relevant issue in 2016. Inviting Flowers would be risky for Trump, because he faces a potentially record-high gender gap with women, who might be troubled by such an aggressive and personal move. On NBC Meet the Press, Clinton’s campaign chairman John Podesta portrayed Trump’s Twitter post about Flowers as yet another example of behavior unbecoming of someone seeking the presidency. He said:

You saw his reaction, which is to do his favorite sport, which is to dive in the sewer and go for a swim.

But on Fox News Sunday, Pence sought to put an end to the matter, saying:

Gennifer Flowers will not be attending the debate tomorrow night. Donald was using the tweet yesterday really to mock an effort by Hillary Clinton and her campaign to really distract attention from where the sheeple, the Pindostani sheeple, are going to be focused tomorrow night, which is on the issues. It’s on the choice that we face.

they didn’t care about the donbass

Russia accused of war crimes in Syria at UNSC session
Julian Borger, Guardian, Sep 25 2016

Russia has been directly and repeatedly accused of war crimes at the UNSC in an unusually blunt session, as hopes of any form of ceasefire were flattened by the scale and ferocity of the Syrian regime’s assault on eastern Aleppo. The war crimes accusations centred on the widespread use of bunker-busters and incendiaries on the rebel-held east of the city, weapons that Moscow’s accusers say were dropped by Russian aircraft. Matthew Rycroft, the UK ambassador to the UN said in Sunday’s emergency security council session on Syria:

Bunker-busting bombs, more suited to destroying military installations, are now destroying homes, decimating bomb shelters, crippling, maiming, killing dozens, if not hundreds. Incendiary munitions, indiscriminate in their reach, are being dropped on to civilian areas so that, yet again, Aleppo is burning. And to cap it all, water supplies, so vital to millions, are now being targeted, depriving water to those most in need. In short, it is difficult to deny that Russia is partnering with the Syrian regime to carry out war crimes.

Earlier in the day, British foreign office mophead Boris Johnson said:

Putin’s regime is not just handing Assad the revolver. He is, in some instances, firing the revolver. The Russians themselves are actually engaged.

Save the Children quoted doctors in Aleppo on Sunday as saying about half the casualties in the city were children. In the security council, Rycroft’s French counterpart, François Delattre, agreed the use of bunker-busters and incendiaries on urban residential areas were war crimes and insisted:

These crimes must not go unpunished. Aleppo is becoming another Srebrenica or Guernica. If nothing is done, this week will go down in history as the one in which diplomacy failed and barbarism triumphed.

Samantha Power highlighted the targeting of three out of four centres in eastern Aleppo used by the White Helmets and said:

Lifesaving equipment has been destroyed, with the consequence that those buried in rubble in Aleppo are much more likely to die in the rubble. While Sergei Lavrov was talking about restoring peace in Syria at UNSC meetings last week, incendiary bombs were being loaded on to Russian planes in preparation for the new offensive. What Russia is sponsoring and doing is not counter-terrorism. It is barbarism. History will not look kindly on UNSC members who stay silent in the face of this carnage. This is not the time to use the passive voice and observe that Aleppo is being bombed. It is time to say who is doing the bombing.

In response, Vitaiy Churkin blamed the breakdown of the ceasefire on the rebels, including the “moderate opposition” backed by the west. Extremist groups in eastern Aleppo were holding its population hostage, Churkin claimed, stopping them from leaving and using them as human shields. He praised the Assad regime in Damascus for its “admirable restraint,” claiming it was in fact Syrian government forces that were surrounded, and were only firing on eastern Aleppo when they had been fired upon. He said:

The Syrian regime only uses air power to get terrorists out of the city with minimal civilian casualties.

He dismissed reports of mass killing in east Aleppo as fake, using footage from government-held western Aleppo. But much of (Staffan de Mistura’s) briefing to the UNSC on the situation contradicted Churkin’s account. He said:

The ceasefire significantly reduced the level of fighting, allowing Aleppo residents to come out of their shelters and houses to celebrate Eid on the streets. People started to become cautiously optimistic, but the ceasefire was broken by bombing a day before the end of its first week, when five districts were hit reportedly with five severe airstrikes (when the Syrian government ended the truce). Since that fateful day, we have seen the situation in eastern Aleppo deteriorate to new heights of horror. Airstrikes are reported to have killed 213 people in Aleppo province, 139 of them in eastern Aleppo. We heard the word “unprecedented” in quantity and also in scale and type, in the types of bombing. We have seen reports, videos and pictures of reported use of incendiary bombs that create fireballs of such intensity that they light up the pitch darkness in eastern Aleppo, as though it was actually daylight. We now hear of bunker-busting bombs being used and see pictures of large craters in the earth much larger than in previous aerial bombings. If it is confirmed, the systematic indiscriminate use of such weapons in areas where civilians and civilian infrastructure are present may amount to war crimes. I have been asked why, in the face of such an onslaught and failure of diplomacy, I did not resign. I would not do so, because any sign of me resigning would be a signal that the international community is abandoning the Syrians, and we will not abandon the Syrians, and neither will you.

Tom Fletcher, the UK’s former ambassador to Lebanon, said:

The change in tone used at the UNSC on Sunday marks a new phase in the West’s response to the conflict, jettisoning residual hopes of making a deal with Russia. Normally, diplomatic language is cautious: even the Syria contact group’s statement yesterday only spoke of patience with Russia being “not unlimited.” But today’s statements in the UNSC from France, Pindostan & Britain are more raw and more angry. They show that the recent policy, admittedly more in hope than expectation, of trusting Russia to restrain Assad is now buried in the rubble of Aleppo. This signals a new phase. Assad has calculated that US elections give him a free hand to massacre. We will now see whether or not he has underestimated Pindosi readiness to protect the most vulnerable.

more CNN

6 children killed by barrel bombs in Aleppo offensive, say activists
Tim Hume, CNN, Sep 25 2016

At least seven people, six of them children, were killed in a barrel bombing of opposition-held eastern Aleppo Sunday, an activist group reported, as the Syrian government continues its furious offensive in the wake of a collapsed ceasefire. The barrel bombs, launched from helicopters, struck the city’s Bustan al-Pasha neighborhood. The UNSC is to meet Sunday. The session was requested by Pindostan, Britain and France in the wake of the regime’s military push to retake rebel-held parts of eastern Aleppo in recent days, a UN source confirmed to CNN. The opposition says the violence has been even more intense than before the ceasefire took hold. Hundreds of airstrikes have pummeled the city since the Syrian government announced a renewed “comprehensive” offensive on Thursday following the collapse of the ceasefire. The offensive, involving ground troops as well as air power, has targeted rebel positions across the country, inflicting “heavy losses” on them, SANA reported. Residents in the opposition-held east of Aleppo reported ongoing barrel bomb attacks Sunday.

On Saturday, Syrian government troops and supporting militia made their first major ground advance of the assault on Aleppo, seizing control of the Handarat Palestinian refugee camp on the city’s north-eastern outskirts, while warplanes bombarded the opposition-held east, according to state-run SANA. Rebels then launched a counter-offensive to try to retake the area, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. There were conflicting reports as to the outcome of the fighting. The foreign ministers of Pindostan, France, Germany, Britain and Italy, along with the EU rep Mogherini, released a statement late Saturday condemning the ongoing offensive on eastern Aleppo as “unacceptable.” The statement said it was up to Russia to prove it was “willing and able to take extraordinary steps to salvage diplomatic efforts to restore a cessation of hostilities” on the ground, and condemned the Syrian government’s “public denunciation” of the ceasefire.

Syria’s military declared the ceasefire over on Monday, after a strike by Pindo warplanes on a Syrian army post, which killed dozens of troops. The Pindo military did not dispute the strike, but characterized it as “unintentional” and relayed its “regret” to Syria through Russia, saying the intended target had been Daesh. Shortly after the ceasefire ended Monday, a UN-SARC aid convoy was hit in an airstrike, killing about 20 people. Pindo boxtops blamed Russia, while Moscow denied that Russian or Syrian warplanes were responsible. In a statement Saturday, Ban Ki-moon condemned the “chilling military escalation in the city of Aleppo, which is facing the most sustained and intense bombardment since the start of the Syrian conflict.” He said that the Syrian government’s use of airstrikes, incendiary weapons and bunker-busters in densely populated areas may amount to war crimes. Pindostan and Russia, who brokered the shattered ceasefire, have continued talks about how to revive the truce, but both have accused the other of failing to adequately rein in forces under their influence on the ground, rebels in the case of Pindostan, and the Syrian government in the case Russia. Russia stresses that rooting out terrorist groups is key to securing peace, while Pindostan has blamed the Syrian government for the ceasefire’s failure, and called for military aircraft (other than their own – RB) to be grounded.

col cassad on syria, new analysis today

Russia delays
Colonel Cassad, Sep 25 2016


Briefly about the allegations of the British Foreign Ministry, “Russia tightens the war in Syria.” The problem of the Syrian war and Russia’s participation in it is not that the latter prolongs the war. The problem is that Russia has thwarted the realization of the plans of the West to overthrow Assad. Before the start of the open participation of the armed forces in the Syrian war, the West for four years supplied arms, money, mercenaries and local militants who tried to overthrow the legitimate Syrian government. Questions time then neither Washington nor London didn’t care, because it was a goal that was by military means, and how many months or even years had it to spend, didn’t look too fundamental, because “Assad must go.” But after the intervention of Russia in a few months it became clear that to overthrow Assad by military means is not possible, and already there is a question (of what if) what the militants themselves will be defeated, and pro-Western militants. And then the West immediately thought about diplomacy and humanitarian initiatives. Of course, they don’t see and don’t want to see their own guilt in the ongoing Syrian nightmare, it’s so much easier to blame everything on Assad, who fought off the militants, and on Russia, which helped him in this. The usual hypocrisy and nothing more, when the main culprits of the Syrian war are trying to shift responsibility to others.

Now, when the people of Aleppo are still engaged in fierce battle (fighting for Handarat camp and Sheikh Saeed quarter), the West has used up the first information in its media barrage, and now convenes the UNSC under the pretext of a “humanitarian catastrophe in Aleppo” (about which in July-August no one especially cared, as there was hope that the rebels would beat the SAA), to force Russia to influence Assad to stop the fighting in Aleppo and gave respite to the insurgents. The Russian Foreign Ministry, quite melancholic about this, noted that the Russian Federation will not enter into an optional truce without guarantees, but let the “moderate” rebels separate from “Nusra” and then we can have a truce to talk. The problem of the West is that “moderate” militants do not want to break with the “Nusra”. Moreover, some factions in Aleppo have moved in the opposite direction to their obedience, and the chances that they will share are pretty slim.

In this regard, the policy of the West towards the battle for Aleppo is a mixture of empty promises, which Pindostan and NATO can not perform, as they have little influence over a significant part of the militants, as well as thinly veiled threats against Syria and Russia. The world that they want in Syria is a world without Russia and Assad. But as they they have not the military capabilities to remove Assad, they have to admonish and threaten, simultaneously parading themselves as peacekeepers, although the countries of the West by its support of the militants did more than others for the mass bloodshed in Syria. And it is no coincidence that the Syrian representative speaking at the UN, despite the apology Pindostan passed through Russia, directly accused Pindostan of aiding and abetting Daesh and of a deliberate attack on the SAA. The breakdown of the last ceasefire in Syria and the rupture of Pindo-Russian deals, the details of which the Russian Foreign Ministry has promised to make public soon, once again demonstrated in practice that global hegemony is not willing to perform the agreement, that he is weary. Well then, can it be that such position of Pindostan is openly dragging out the war? Well, Pindostan can not be guilty of this fault, it is again Russia and Syria have to ruin everything. In fact, in the West, in official circles there is no reflection about done with Syria. There dubolomnyh continue to try to bend the world for themselves, even where such a strategy is obviously not working, but the Messianic attitude does not give the military-political establishment to admit they were wrong and press on the brake. Destroyed the country, killed hundreds of thousands, millions of refugees, rampant Islamism – all these “mistakes” repeated again and again, extending farther to the bloody epilogue of the Arab spring.But what criminal will refuse to blame their own crimes on their victims?

“senator, that would require us to go to war with syria & russia… that’s a decision i’m not going to make”


Pence’s host, Bishop John Brannon of Living Word Ministries International of Colorado Springs (, is Black – RB


Pence: ‘Too much talk’ of institutional, racial bias in law enforcement
Elizabeth Landers, CNN, Sep 22 2016

COLORADO SPRINGS – Mike Pence told a church group here Thursday that there is “far too much of this talk of institutional bias or racism within law enforcement” during a conversation about faith. Pence was answering a question posed by Bishop John Brannon who asked about how Pence as vice president could personally unite the nation. Pence referenced recent police shootings of black men in Tulsa and Charlotte, North Carolina, saying, “It’s a very troubling time for us.” The Charlotte shootings, which led to violence and unrest in that city this week, have sparked discussions of lethal police force against African-Americans Black Pindostanis. Pence mentioned faith as his first means to reunite the country and reduce violence, but then said he thought there was too much talk of how law enforcement officers conduct themselves.

Donald Trump and I believe there’s been far too much of this talk of institutional bias or racism within law enforcement. That police officers are human beings. In difficult and life threatening situations, mistakes are made and people have to be held to strict account.

The governor reiterated his belief that it is a challenging time to be in law enforcement and doubled down that “we ought to set aside this talk about institutional racism and institutional bias.” He finished his answer by saying it’s time to “move away from the rhetoric of division and embrace the rhetoric of unity.” The governor expressed his opinion that when tragedies happen, voices of division come forward instead of voices of unity, though he did not directly mention Obama’s leadership. Asked Wednesday about the police shootings in Charlotte and Tulsa, Trump did not address the Charlotte incident but said he was “very, very troubled” by the shooting of Terence Crutcher, an unarmed black man, in Tulsa on Friday night.

walid moallem at the UN

You can safely skip all the bollocks between the square brackets – RB

Assad’s Belief in Military Victory Greater Than Ever, Top Syrian Diplomat Tells UN
AP, Sep 25 2016

131325247 Photo: Jason De Crow

Syria’s top diplomat told the UNGA on Saturday that his country’s belief in military victory is greater now because the army “is making great strides in its war against terrorism.” Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem said Syria is more determined than ever to eliminate “terrorism” from the country. Al-Moallem accused the “moderate armed opposition” of committing crimes and massacres against Syrians “that are no less barbaric” than those of Daesh & AQ.

[The Syrian government in turn has been accused by Pindostan and its vassals of the indiscriminate killing of civilians, dropping bombs filled with chlorine gas as a chemical weapon, and torturing and killing opponents. Syria was stepping up its military campaign even as talks were taking place between Jackass Kerry and Sergey Lavrov on the sidelines of the UNGA on reviving the ceasefire. As of Saturday, rebel-held parts of the city of Aleppo had come under a blistering wave of airstrikes that killed dozens, toppled buildings and sent wounded people flooding into poorly equipped clinics. Aid was never delivered to Aleppo, and on Saturday government forces captured an area on the edge of the city, tightening their siege around the rebel-held east. Global reaction was swift and condemned the new Syrian offensive in harsh terms. Ban Ki-moon “is appalled by the chilling military escalation” in Aleppo and underlines that the use of indiscriminate weapons including incendiaries and bunker-busters in densely populated areas “may amount to war crimes,” and considers this “a dark day for the global commitment to protect civilians.” Jackass called the bombing of Aleppo “beyond the pale,” accusing the Syrian government of “laying siege in medieval terms to an entire community.” Speaking at Tufts University in Boston, he demanded that Russia help bring peace to Syria instead of “an unacceptable precedent for the entire world.”]

Moallem said the Syrian government remains committed to political negotiations in Geneva under UN auspices, but he stressed that any solution must follow two parallel tracks: intensified counter-terrorism efforts and an intra-Syrian dialogue that allows Syrians to determine their future “without foreign interference.” He said a political solution should begin “by establishing a government of national unity comprising representatives from the government and the opposition, in all its factions, and tasked with creating a constitution drafting committee.” Once a new constitution is approved by Syrians through a referendum, parliamentary elections should follow leading to formation of a new government. That proposal is contrary to the roadmap for a Syrian political transition adopted by key Pindo-nominated nations in Geneva in Jun 2012 including the five permanent UNSC members that has been the basis of subsequent Geneva talks. It starts with the establishment of a transitional governing body, vested with full executive powers, and ends with elections, and requires Assad to relinquish power at some unspecified point. Moallem made no mention of Assad stepping down as president and envisioned a military victory, something Russia, Pindostan and the UN say is impossible. Moallem said:

Our belief in victory is even greater now that the Syrian Arab Army is making great strides in its war against terrorism, with the support of the true friends of the Syrian people, notably the Russian Federation, Iran and the Lebanese national resistance (Hezbollah).

Moallem accused the Toads & Thanis of spreading “terrorism” in Syria by sending in “mercenaries equipped with the most sophisticated weapons.” He also accused the Turks of opening its border “to let in tens of thousands of terrorists from all over the world,” and providing them with military and logistical support. He reiterated the government’s condemnation “in the strongest possible terms” of a Pindo attack on a Syrian army site near Deir El-Zour airport on Sep 17, which he said allowed Daesh to gain control of the site. He said:

The Syrian government holds Pindostan fully responsible for this aggression, because facts show that it was an intentional attack, and not an error, even if the Pindostan claims otherwise.

Al-Moallem also accused Turkey of “flagrant aggression” for entering Syrian territory “under the pretext of countering terrorism” and said this “must be stopped immediately.

west aleppo water cut off by rebels

UNSC to meet on Syria as Assad’s troops tighten grip on Aleppo
Emma Graham-Harrison, Guardian, Sep 25 2016

Assad’s troops have tightened their siege of Aleppo, after another 24 hours of intense bombardment that left dozens dead and nearly 2 million without water. The UNSC is due to meet at 11am on Sunday to discuss the escalation of fighting in Aleppo, diplomats said, at the request of Pindostan, Britain and France. A barrage of bombs has been dropped on the city since Thursday when Assad, along with his Russian backers, abandoned a shaky ceasefire and government forces launched a new assault on the city that was Syria’s largest before the war. The attack has left US policy on Syria in disarray, with diplomats pursuing a halt in hostilities even as Assad’s forces on the ground ramped up fighting using Moscow’s air power as back-up. The intensity of the attack and the power of some of the larger bombs are unprecedented even for a city that has endured some of the most brutal fighting of Syria’s long civil war, including years of notoriously imprecise barrel bombs. On the ground, Syrian troops were pressing their advantage and captured the Handarat camp for Palestinian refugees. Deserted, but strategically important, the camp is perched on elevated ground overlooking the key Castello road into besieged Aleppo. That route fell to government troops in July, cutting off an estimated 250,000 people, and the latest advances consolidate the siege. The munitions used appear to include extremely powerful “bunker buster” bombs that can bring down whole buildings. They make death tolls harder to calculate because they destroy some bodies entirely and leave others too deeply buried in rubble for recovery. Doctors are struggling to triage the injuries brought into the few remaining hospitals, with medical supplies running out. There are also fears that epidemics could take hold, after water supplies were cut to both sides of the city. Airstrikes damaged the Bab al-Nayrab pumping station which provides eastern Aleppo with water, and the intensity of attacks meant repair teams could not reach it, the UN said. In retaliation, another nearby station Suleiman al-Halabi, which supplies more than 1.5 million people in government-held western Aleppo, was switched off. UNICEF’s Hanaa Singer said:

Depriving children of water puts them at risk of catastrophic outbreaks of waterborne diseases and adds to the suffering, fear and horror that children in Aleppo live through every day. It is critical for children’s survival that all parties in the conflict stop attacks on water infrastructure.

In the west of the city, some deep wells can provide water, but in east Aleppo most of the well water is contaminated. The charity plans to truck water throughout the city, but warned this is a temporary and inadequate solution. Jackass Kerry said he had made “a little progress” on halting the violence in talks with Sergei Lavrov. The Russians said there was little to suggest any forward movement. Assad is determined to regain control of a city but, despite the intense bombing, it is unlikely to fall quickly. A large, defiant population remains in rebel-held areas, and they are afraid of the retribution of government forces should they succeed in capturing the city. One western diplomat told journalists in New York:

It seems highly improbable that there will be a quick defeat of eastern Aleppo. The only way to take it is by such monstrous atrocities that it would resonate for generations.

cluster bombs

Incendiary/HE cluster bomb RBK-500 ZAB-2,5SM attack on Aleppo

EU: Attacks on civilians in Aleppo ‘breach’ humanitarian law
AFP, Sep 25 2016

The attacks on civilians in the Syrian city of Aleppo amount to a “breach of international humanitarian law,” senior European officials said on Saturday, urging the international community to intensify peace efforts. EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini and humanitarian commissioner Christos Stylianides said in a statement:

The indiscriminate suffering being caused among innocent civilians… is an unacceptable breach of international humanitarian law.

They denounced the “firebombing and shelling” as well as the “deliberate targeting” of a humanitarian convoy last week and the “cutting off of water supplies to the majority of civilians still in the city.” The aid convoy was hit by an airstrike that Pindo sputniks have said was carried out by Russian planes. UN boxtops (not as fruity as the sputniks) say nearly two million civilians were left without water in the devastated northern city after regime bombardment damaged a pumping station and rebels shut down another in retaliation. In their statement datelined Brussels, Mogherini and Stylianides called the suffering caused by the attacks “an affront” to the whole world, adding:

It risks to take us ever further from a negotiated settlement of the conflict, which remains the only way of bringing it to an end.

The pair called on those with influence on the regime and those dealing with the armed opposition “to apply the maximum pressure to cease the attacks.” They also urged them to work to “allow unhindered and continuous humanitarian access to those in need, and resume political negotiations under the auspices of the UN in Geneva as swiftly as possible.”

jason going weird in some respects

TOS-1 (Russian: ТОС-1 – тяжёлая огнемётная система, English: Heavy Flamethrower System) is a Soviet 220mm 30-barrel (original system, Ob.634 or TOS-1M) or 24-barrel (Ob.634B or TOS-1A) multiple rocket launcher and Thermobaric weapon mounted on a T-72 tank chassis. TOS-1 was designed for defeating enemy personnel in fortifications, in open country, and in lightly armoured vehicles and transport. A set of rockets NURS (rus. Неуправляемый реактивный снаряд) MO.1.01.04 and MO.1.01.04M. These are 3.3 m (10 ft 10 in) and 3.7 m (12 ft 2 in) long and weigh 173 kg (381 lb) and 217 kg (478 lb) respectively. The original rocket for the TOS-1A had a range of only 2,700 m (8,900 ft), but the improved version extends the range to 6,000 m (20,000 ft).

Escalation in North Syria’s Aleppo Adds to Humanitarian Woes
Jason Ditz,, Sep 24 2016

Fighting has dramatically escalated over the last 48 hours in Syria’s long-contested northern city of Aleppo, with heavy airstrikes by Syrian (and reportedly Russian) warplanes and battles along the outskirts of the half of the city under the control of the Nusra Front. Well over 100 people have been killed in that span, with the toll rising all the time, and estimates of 200+ separate airstrikes launched into the city. UNICEF  reported that the strikes had knocked out a pumping station in the Nusra-held part of the city, cutting off supplies of water to around two million people. Repairs still need to be made, but within a few hours the water began flowing again across much of the area. The EU responded to the most recent attacks, blasting them as a “breach of international humanitarian law.” They called on Russia and other nations with significant influence to pressure Syria to end the attacks. At the same time, unnamed Western diplomats were telling the media that they believe Russia has begun attacking the Nusra Front with thermobaric weapons. Russian TOS-1A rocket launchers were being blamed for some of the fires since the ceasefire collapse around Aleppo last week, with one claiming the rockets are “one step down from a nuclear weapon.” Thermobaric weapons, often called “fuel-air bombs,” suck oxygen from the surrounding area to produce a high-powered blast wave. The weapons are designed for use against fortified enemies, since they can kill people through suffocation by drawing the air out of a confined space. Syria’s military has used TOS-1 launchers a few times within the Civil War, but Russia is as yet not confirmed to have done so, or indeed to even have deployed such weapons to Syria. The use of them in a heavy populated area would, needless to say, cause massive numbers of civilian casualties. The Syrian government doesn’t seem to have designs on just continuing the airstrikes at any rate, but rather intends to invade the Nusra-held neighborhoods outright, with forces having already captured the Palestinian refugee camp of Handarat, on the outskirts of the city, and seen advancing toward the city’s outskirts. Aleppo has been divided since 2012, and fighting over that time has done massive damage to the city.