Airstrikes Destroy Bakery in Syria’s Aleppo
AP, Sep 29 2016
BEIRUT — The latest on the conflict in Syria (all times local):
3:30 p.m. – Syrian activists say airstrikes have hit the last remaining bakery serving a town north of the besieged city of Aleppo, putting it out of service. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says a number of airstrikes hit the town of Anadan and its bakery Thursday, and put the bakery out of service. Adnan Medlej, an activist from Anadan, says the bakery was hit shortly after it distributed bread to the town’s remaining 2,000 residents and others in nearby villages. After coming under intense bombing and devastating its infrastructure, most of the town’s residents have fled to other areas in rural Aleppo. A video shot by Medlej shows the bakery destroyed and a crater outside, with water leaking and walls torched. On Wednesday, government shelling near a bread distribution center in Aleppo killed six people.
2:00 p.m. – Erdogan says his country is determined to eliminate the “corridor of terror” along its border with Syria by clearing Daesh and Syrian Kurdish fighters from the area. Addressing a group of local administrators on Thursday, Erdogan reiterated that a secure no-fly zone which Turkey would like established in Syria would help end the flow of refugees to Turkey and beyond. Turkey last month sent troops and tanks into Syria to help Syrian opposition rebels re-take IS strongholds near the Turkish border and curb the advance of Syrian Kurdish militia. Erdogan said some 30,000 people had returned to the Syrian town of Jarablus since it was freed from Daesh by the Turkish-backed rebels last month.
12:40 p.m. – Syria’s military has released a video of its new advances in the contested Syrian city of Aleppo, showing destruction and ruins in a neighborhood that is hundreds of years old. The video released Thursday shows damaged traditional buildings, with arched ceilings and stone walls, in the Farafra neighborhood that rests at the foot of the old citadel in Aleppo city. The video shows mounds of debris, twisted metal bars and broken ceilings with fighters walking past. The Syrian government claimed it had repelled rebels from Farafra Tuesday, in the first such advance in old Aleppo. Since last week, the government has waged a major air campaign in Aleppo and threatened a wide ground offensive. MSF says more than 270 civilians have been killed in the advance.
12:00 p.m. – A top Russian diplomat says a Pindosi threat to halt cooperation with Russia in the Syria conflict constitutes an “emotional breakdown” and says Russia is willing to support a 48-hour ceasefire around Aleppo. Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov on Thursday rejected Washington’s calls for a seven-day pause in hostilities, but said Russia is willing to support a 48-hour truce for humanitarian purposes. Ryabkov’s comments follow Jackass Kerry’s warning that Pindostan will stop coordinating with Moscow unless Russian and Syrian attacks on Aleppo end. Ryabkov was quoted by Russian news agencies as saying of Pindostan that “a certain emotional breakdown occurred.” He also reiterated Russia’s stance that a seven-day pause in the Aleppo offensive would give militant groups time to regroup.
Pindostan weighs tougher response to Russia over Syria crisis
Jonathan Landay, John Walcott, Matt Spetalnick, WaPo, Sep 29 2016
WASHINGTON – Obama admin boxtops have begun considering tougher responses to the Syrian government assault on Aleppo, including military options, they said on Wednesday. The new discussions were being held at “staff level” and have yet to produce any recommendations to Obama, who has resisted ordering military action against Syria. But the deliberations coincide with Jackass Kerry threatening to halt diplomacy with Russia on Syria and holding Moscow responsible for dropping incendiary bombs on rebel areas of Aleppo. It was the stiffest warning to the Russians since the Sep 19 collapse of the truce. Even administration advocates of a more muscular response said on Wednesday that it was not clear what the president would do, if anything, and that his options “begin at tougher talk.” One said that before any action could be taken, Washington would first have “follow through on Kerry’s threat and break off talks with the Russians.” But they said the failure of diplomacy in Syria has left the Obama administration no choice but to consider alternatives, most of which involve some use of force and have been examined before but held in abeyance. These include allowing Gulf allies to supply rebels with more sophisticated weaponry, something considered more likely despite Washington’s opposition to this until now. Another is a Pindo air strike on a Syrian air force base, viewed as less likely because of the potential for causing Russian casualties, the officials told Reuters.
The options being weighed are limited in number and stop well short of any large-scale commitment of troops, which Obama, who has only four months left in office, has long rejected. Critics of Obama’s policy in Syria argue that he set the goal of Assad’s departure without providing sufficient means to achieve it by arming the rebels earlier and more extensively, allowing Pindo vassals to do so or using Pindo military might to tip the scales in the conflict. Further, foreign policy experts inside and outside the administration have said Obama erred when he pulled back from launching air strikes on Syria to enforce a “red line” he set against the Assad government’s use of chemical weapons. The result, they argued, was to diminish Pindo credibility in Moscow, Damascus and elsewhere because the perception took hold that Obama would not keep his word and follow through on his threat. Two of them said the speed with which the Syrians have advanced in Aleppo and the diplomatic track has collapsed caught some in the administration off guard. The fall of Aleppo would restore Assad’s rule over western Syria’s most important city and deal a devastating blow to the rebels. As a result, one of the officials said, the list of options is narrowing to supporting rebel counter attacks elsewhere with additional weaponry or even air strikes, which “might not reverse the tide of battle, but might cause the Russians to stop and think.” Another official said any weapons supplies would not include shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missiles, or Manpads, which the Obama administration fears could fall into the hands of Islamic State militants or al Qaeda-linked groups.
The most dramatic option under consideration, but considered less likely, would be a Pindo air strike on a Syrian air base far from the fighting between Assad’s troops and rebel forces in the north. Other ideas under consideration include sending more Pindo SOF to train and advise Kurdish and Syrian rebel groups, and deploying additional Poindo & vassal naval and airpower to the eastern Mediterranean, where a French aircraft carrier is already en route. Pindo boxtops had considered a humanitarian airlift to rebel-held areas, which would require escorts by Pindo warplanes, but this has been deemed too risky and has been “moved down the list,” one of them said. State Dept spox Adm (retd) Kirby said on Wednesday that boxtops involved in the interagency process that deals with national security had discussed other Syria options “that don’t revolve around diplomacy.” He declined to elaborate. Boxtops cautioned that no decisions were imminent with Ashtray Carter traveling and Obama and other senior turds planning to attend Peres’s funeral in Israel on Friday.
Pindostan threatens to suspend bilateral engagement with Russia over Syria
Karen DeYoung, WaPo, Sep 28 2016
The Obama administration threatened Wednesday to suspend plans for coordinating counter-terrorism strikes in Syria with Russia unless Moscow moves to stop its assault on the city of Aleppo and restore a collapsed cease-fire. Adm (retd) Kirby said:
Jackass Kerry, in a telephone call to his Russian counterpart, made it clear that Pindostan and its vassals hold Russia responsible for this situation, including the drastic escalation of its military actions in recent days and its refusal to ensure the safe passage of humanitarian aid to government-besieged areas. Pindostan is making preparations to suspend Pindo-Russia bilateral engagement on Syria unless Russia takes immediate steps to end the (bombing) in Aleppo.
There is a growing sense that Pindostan is powerless to (intervene), or is at least unwilling to take steps that might force Moscow and Damascus to change their calculations. Those possible steps, including Pindo military action, increased arms shipments to Syrian rebel forces or additional sanctions, have changed little. All are again being reviewed by the administration, including at a National Security Council deputies meeting Wednesday. But just as the alternatives are the same, so are the perceived drawbacks and internal opposition to each of them. If anything, the fast-approaching end of the administration and the complications of the conflict have made them even less attractive. Jackass and Obama believe that none of the options “are better, in the long run, for the Syrian people than trying to get a diplomatic solution now,” Kirby said. He and others declined to define “immediate” in the context of Wednesday’s demand for Russian action and emphasized that the door remains open to Moscow. In Moscow, Lt-Gen V Poznikhir of the Armed Forces General Staff said, according to Interfax:
At the behest of the Russian president, we shall further continue the joint work with our Pindosi partners on the Syrian problem.
The threat of suspending “bilateral engagement” largely refers to ongoing Pindo-Russia talks in Geneva. Late last week, the government of Syria declared the truce at an end and began a new offensive intended to retake eastern Aleppo from the now-surrounded rebels. Amid continued Syrian and Russian airstrikes, using incendiary and bunker-busting bombs, critics were quick to belittle the administration’s response. Walnuts McCain and Lindsey Graham, who last week called Jackass “delusional” for trusting Russia, sarcastically remarked in a Wednesday statement:
(This threat is) a real power move in Pindo diplomacy. We can only imagine that having heard the news, Vladimir Putin has called off his bear hunt and is rushing back to the Kremlin to call off Russian airstrikes on hospitals, schools, and humanitarian aid convoys around Aleppo.
Where’s the congressional vote for force? Talk is cheap. I have my own views about what we ought to do, but I’m not going to be arguing about them publicly. The cause of what is happening is Assad and Russia wanting to simply try to pursue a military victory, and it would be diplomatic malpractice not to try to pursue whether or not through some kind of diplomatic effort you could actually wind up reducing the violence. And what’s the alternative? Today there’s no ceasefire, and we’re not talking to them right now. What’s happening? The place is being utterly destroyed. Okay? That’s not delusional. That’s a fact.
Although Obama has overruled Pentagon objections to cooperating with Russia, he has long been unwilling to approve any Plan B for what to do if diplomacy or limited efforts to arm the opposition fail. While still on the table, military options such as bombing Assad’s airstrips now seem impossible with Russia’s participation in the air war. Some boxtops have continued to advocate allowing the Toads & Thanis to supply them with more sophisticated weapons, including shoulder-launched anti-aircraft missiles. But long-standing fears that the weapons could fall into terrorist hands now seem even more acute, with the increased mixing on the ground of rebel groups and the potent forces of Jabhat al-Nusra. A Western boxtop said:
I just don’t see (any Pindo military steps) at the moment. This White House hasn’t got much longer, and there’s a reluctance to do anything that would bounce a future administration into a course of action. The French Foreign Minister proposed a new UNSCR for an Aleppo ceasefire. The goal is to shame Russia. But Russia has shown that it isn’t easily shamed.
Warplanes knock out Aleppo hospitals as Russian-backed assault
Ellen Francis, Tom Perry, Reuters, Sep 28 2016
BEIRUT – Russian or Syrian warplanes knocked two hospitals out of service in the besieged rebel sector of Aleppo on Wednesday and ground forces intensified an assault in a battle which the UN said had made the city worse than a slaughterhouse. Two patients died in one of the hospitals and other shelling killed six residents queuing for bread under a siege that has trapped 250,000 people with food running out. The week-old assault, which could herald a turning point in the war, has already killed hundreds of people, with bunker-busting bombs bringing down buildings on residents huddled inside. Only about 30 doctors are believed to be left inside the besieged zone, coping with hundreds of wounded a day. Mohammad Abu Rajab, a radiologist at the M10 hospital, the largest trauma hospital in the city’s rebel-held sector, told Reuters:
The warplane flew over us and directly started dropping its missiles at around 4 am. Rubble fell in on the patients in the intensive care unit.
M10 hospital workers said oxygen and power generators were destroyed and patients were transferred to another hospital. Photographs sent to Reuters by a hospital worker at the facility showed damaged storage tanks, a rubble strewn area, and the collapsed roof of what he said was a power facility. There were no initial reports of casualties there, but MSF’s Syria head Carlos Francisco said:
Two patients were killed at the other hospital, in shelling which took it out of service as well, leaving east Aleppo with only seven doctors in a position to undertake surgery. And this comes at a time when east Aleppo has been under siege since July and is suffering the bloodiest indiscriminate bombing since the beginning of the war.
The government of President Bashar al-Assad has launched a massive assault to crush the rebels’ last major urban stronghold. Aleppo has been divided for years between government and rebel zones, and taking full control of the city would restore near full government rule over the most important cities of western Syria. The offensive began with unprecedentedly fierce bombing last week, followed by a ground campaign this week. Washington says Moscow and Damascus are guilty of war crimes for targeting civilians, hospitals, rescue workers and aid deliveries, to break the will of residents and force them to surrender. Syria and Russia say they target only militants. Asked by a reporter at the UN whether Syria had bombed the two hospitals hit on Wednesday, Syrian ambassador Bashar Ja’afari appeared to laugh. The Syrian army said a Nusra position had been destroyed in Aleppo’s old quarter, and other militant-held areas targeted in “concentrated air strikes” near the city. Another hospital, M2, was damaged by bombardment in the al-Maadi district, where at least six people were killed while queuing for bread at a nearby bakery, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. The collapse of the peace process leaves Pindo policy on Syria in tatters and is a personal blow to Jackass Kerry, who spoke to Lavrov on Wednesday.
Assad’s Iranian and Lebanese Hezbollah allies have said in recent days the war will be won in combat. But the rebels remain a potent military force even as they have lost control of urban areas. The collapse of peace efforts ends a proposed scheme to separate Western-backed fighters from hardened Jihadis. It has also raised the question of whether the Turks, Toads & Thanis will increase military backing to rebels. The rebels’ main demand has long been for the provision of anti-aircraft missiles, but Washington has resisted this, fearing they could end up in the hands of Jihadis. Pindo boxtops told Reuters in Washington that the collapse of the Syrian ceasefire had heightened the possibility that the Toads might arm rebels with SAMs. A senior rebel commander said it was not out of the question that this could happen. He said:
The Pindosis might thinking about doing something, but nobody knows how big it will be.
Another rebel commander, Colonel Fares al-Bayoush, told Reuters his group had received deliveries of Grad surface-to-surface rockets, with a range of 22-40 km, in “excellent quantities.” Fierce fighting accompanied by air strikes was reported on Wednesday in northern Hama province between Syrian government and allied forces trying to recapture territory lost to insurgents this week, and rebels who made some advances, the Observatory and a rebel group said. A senior official in Aleppo-based rebel group said pro-government forces were mobilizing in apparent preparation for more ground attacks in central areas of the city. A Nusra fighter told Reuters:
There have been clashes in al-Suweiqa from 5 am until now. The army advanced a little bit, and the guys are now repelling it, God willing.
Another rebel official, Zakaria Malahifij, head of the political office of the Fastaqim group, said from Turkey:
Government forces are attacking the Handarat refugee camp a few kilometers to the north of Aleppo. It doesn’t seem that their operation in the old city is the primary operation, it seems like a diversionary one so that the regime consumes the people on that front and advances in the camp.
France wants UNSCR on Aleppo to ‘force Russia’s hand’
John Irish, Michelle Nichols, Reuters, Sep 28 2016
PARIS/ UN – France’s foreign minister said on Wednesday he was working to put forward a UNSCR for a ceasefire in Aleppo, and that any country that opposed it would be deemed complicit in war crimes. Speaking to the French Parliament, Jean-Marc Ayrault accused Syria, backed by Russia and Iran, of carrying out an “all-out war” on its people, something that Paris could not sit by idly watching. Ayrault said:
At this very moment, we are proposing to discuss a resolution to obtain a ceasefire in Aleppo. This resolution will leave everyone facing their responsibilities: those who don’t vote for it, risk being held responsible for complicity in war crimes. We will not let Aleppo become the Guernica of the 21st century.
A senior French diplomatic source said Paris had prepared a text that it wanted to discuss with Britain and Pindostan before presenting it to the Russians. He said:
The idea is not to get a Russian veto, but to have a proper discussion with them on ending the violence, enabling humanitarian access and putting a mechanism in place to enforce the ceasefire. If they don’t play the game, then we will have no qualms taking this to the UNSC even if it means a Russian veto.
Britain’s deputy UN Ambassador Peter Wilson said diplomats were looking to “move on this as quickly as we possibly can.” A senior council diplomat said it was time to force Moscow’s hand. He said:
We’re trying to embarrass Russia into doing the right thing on the ground. Our priority is action on the ground. If that doesn’t work then I think we’re back in the UNSC.
France has also been pushing for a separate UNSCR after a joint investigation by the UN and the global chemical weapons watchdog OPCW found that Syrian government troops were responsible for two toxic gas attacks and Daesh used sulfur mustard gas. Ayrault said:
The UNSC must condemn the use of chemical weapons under chapter (AUMF – RB).
Pindostan gives Russia ultimatum to halt Aleppo attacks
Deutsche Welle, Sep 28 2016
In a telephone call with Sergei Lavrov on Wednesday following a
brutal regime offensive against rebels in Aleppo, Jackass Kerry threatened to end Washington’s engagement with Russia in Syria. State Dept spox Adm (retd) Kirby said:
He informed the foreign minister that Pindostan is making preparations to suspend Pindo-Russia bilateral engagement on Syria … unless Russia takes immediate steps to end the assault on Aleppo and restore the cessation of hostilities. He made clear that Pindostan and its vassals hold Russia responsible for this situation, including the use of incendiary and bunker buster bombs in an urban environment, a drastic escalation that puts civilians at risk.
Shortly after his comments, the Russian military said in a statement it was “ready to continue joint work with our Pindosi partners on the Syrian issue” and send a delegation to Geneva to “relaunch consultations.” Ban Ki-moon on Wednesday described the onslaught of rebel-held Aleppo as worse than a “slaughterhouse” saying:
Those using ever more destructive weapons know exactly what they are doing. They know they are committing war crimes. Deliberate attacks on hospitals are war crimes. Denying people access to essential health care violates international humanitarian law.
Earlier Wednesday, airstrikes and shelling destroyed two out of the eight remaining hospitals in rebel-held Aleppo.
Pindostan has discussed non-diplomatic responses to Syria violence: State Dept
Reuters, Sep 28 2016
The Pindo administration has discussed non-diplomatic options to respond to the violence in Syria after the collapse of the ceasefire, a State Dept spokesman said on Wednesday, but he declined to say what the options might be. Adm (Retd) Kirby said thast boxtops involved in the interagency process that deals with national security had discussed other options “that don’t revolve around diplomacy” to address the situation in Syria. Kirby also said Russia had an interest in stopping the violence in Syria because extremists could exploit the vacuum to attack Russian interests or Russian cities.
Russia says ready to continue to work with Pindostan on Syria
Reuters, Sep 28 2016
Russia said on Wednesday it was ready to work with Pindostan on Syria and would soon send experts to Geneva for talks with Pindo counterparts. The ministry quoted Lt-Gen V Poznikhir as saying in a statement the initiative was a result of a telephone call earlier on Wednesday between Sergei Lavrov and Jackass Kerry. Poznikhir said:
The Russian Defence Ministry and the Foreign Ministry, on instructions from the President of the Russian Federation, are ready for further continuation of the joint work with our American partners on the Syrian problem. We count on our Pindostani partners to be ready to work together (with us). The situation in Syria has deteriorated significantly. Opposition groups, taking advantage of the seven-day truce, have replenished ammunition and weapons reserves, regrouped and moved to active offensive operations to capture new territories. Russia has also learned that terrorist groups are preparing chemical weapons attacks on the Syrian army and residential areas in the eastern part of Aleppo. But delivery of humanitarian aid to the most affected areas is being carried out.
SNC: Political solution “no longer viable option” in Syria
Reuters, Sep 28 2016
BEIRUT – The opposition Syrian National Coalition (SNC) said on Wednesday a political solution was “no longer a viable option” for the Syrian conflict. Muwaffaq Nyrabiya, vice-president of the Turkey-based SNC, said in a statement:
The armed Syrian opposition will be considering all options to defend the Syrian people against the Russian aggression on Syria. The armed and political oppositions are working on closing ranks and arranging their priorities in light of the fierce military campaign waged by the regime and its allies and their violations of international resolutions.