Syrian State TV: Government Forces Advance in Aleppo
AP, Sep 27 2016
BEIRUT — Syrian state TV is reporting that government forces are advancing in the old quarter of the northern city of Aleppo and have captured several buildings. The station said Tuesday troops are now advancing toward the central rebel-held neighborhood of Farafra. The offensive comes after days of intense airstrikes on rebel-held eastern parts of the city, during which scores of people were killed and a number of buildings demolished. Over the weekend, government forces captured the Palestinian refugee camp of Handarat north of the city but rebels regained control of it hours later.
Unrelenting Assault on Aleppo Is Called Worst Yet in Syria’s Civil War
Rick Gladstone, Somini Sengupta, NYT, Sep 26 2016
Undeterred and infuriated by Western accusations of war crimes and barbarity in the aerial assault on Aleppo, the Syrian government and its ally Russia intensively bombed the city in northern Syria on Monday for the fourth consecutive day. Residents and rescuers there described the bombardment as among the worst yet in the five-year war. Both the Kremlin and the Syrian government appeared to harden their position that the United States and its partners had caused the disintegration of a fleeting cease-fire last week. The Russians went as far as suggesting that the Western portrayal of them as war criminals in the Syria conflict risked a further alienation in relations. Insurgent-held neighborhoods in eastern Aleppo were hit with dozens of air attacks in the predawn hours, killing and wounding many people, according to doctors, nurses and activists in the city. By some estimates the deaths totaled 100 or more for the fourth day. A number of monitor groups disseminated graphic photos and video clips portraying the medical mayhem wrought by the bombings. The Aleppo Media Center, a group of anti-government activists and citizen journalists who have sought to document the conflict, posted video footage of civilian victims on a dirty hospital floor getting little more than simple bandages for wounds:
Stockpiles of food and supplies have dwindled to near nothing on the rebel-held side, according to a report from AFP. It also said a shortage of blood for transfusions had forced doctors at the few functioning hospitals to amputate limbs of the seriously wounded. Save the Children, the international charity, said children were “dying on the floors of hospitals” for lack of ventilators, anesthetics and antibiotics.
The crisis in Aleppo has drastically worsened since Thursday, and the volume of bombings has increased, residents and rescue workers in Aleppo have said, and incendiary weapons and heavy-duty bombs that can destroy underground shelters have been used for the first time, wreaking havoc on crowded neighborhoods. One Syrian ambulance crew called Shafak said Sunday that half the dead it had collected over the weekend were children, according to Save the Children. 40% of the population in eastern Aleppo are children, Save the Children said, a statistic that helps to explain the high rates of young casualties. Ahmad Mustafa Makiyya, a volunteer with the ambulance team, said he had to pull his own family members from the rubble of their house, which was struck on Monday. The house was close to a gathering point for day laborers, he said, making the area especially crowded. At an emergency meeting of the UNSC on Sunday, Pindostan, Britain and other allies said that the Russians were abetting war crimes in Aleppo by the government of Assad. Matthew Rycroft, Britain’s ambassador to the United Nations, told the UNSC session:
Bunker-busting bombs, more suited to destroying military installations, are now destroying homes, decimating bomb shelters, crippling, maiming, killing dozens, if not hundreds.
Rycroft said that “in short, it is difficult to deny that Russia” is committing war crimes. (note position of unquote mark! – RB)
Samantha Power accused the Russians of “barbarism”:
Russia’s government, which has called the military campaign a necessary response to terrorist groups in Syria, responded harshly on Monday to the criticism. Dimitri Peskov, a Kremlin spokesman, told reporters in Moscow:
We note the overall unacceptable tone and rhetoric of the representatives of Anglostan & Pindostan, which can damage and harm our relations. Moderate Syrian opposition groups backed by Pindostan and Western and Arab allies have not complied with the terms of the ceasefire by failing to separate themselves from Nusra. Terrorists continue their encroachments, they continue offensives, so that naturally the fight against terrorists is ongoing, and must not be stopped.
Video posted by Qasioun News Agency, an opposition media group showed residents of the Mashad neighborhood in the rebel-held part of Aleppo rescuing children after an aerial assault:
The Union of Medical Care and Relief Organizations, a Cincinnati-based group that supports hospitals in Syria, said the use of bunker-busting bombs in recent days had made the crisis more desperate. The group said in a statement:
These bombs have the capacity to destroy fortified hospitals, medical points and underground shelters (where tens of thousands are taking shelter) at high risk.
Ban Ki-moon, who has repeatedly denounced what he has called the Syrian government’s culpability in most civilian casualties of the war, also expressed shock at the use of bunker-busting bombs, saying:
These bombs are not busting bunkers. They are demolishing ordinary people looking for any last refuge of safety. International law is clear. The systematic use of indiscriminate weapons in densely populated areas is a war crime.
James Le Mesurier, parent of the White Helmets, said:
The power of these bombs is far more destructive than the barrels stuffed with explosives and shrapnel that Syrian government forces have been dropping on rebel-held areas, where they kill and maim indiscriminately. An ordinary building hit by the so-called barrel bombs will crumble, but the bunker busters obliterate buildings and also leave deep and wide craters. The power of these bombs is far more destructive than the barrels stuffed with explosives and shrapnel that Syrian government forces have been dropping on rebel-held areas, where they kill and maim indiscriminately. An ordinary building hit by the so-called barrel bombs will crumble, but the bunker busters obliterate buildings and also leave deep and wide craters. While underground bunkers in eastern Aleppo have afforded civilians some measure of protection from barrel bombs, the bunker busters leave no place to hide.
Caroline Anning, a spokeswoman for Save the Children in southern Turkey, said Syrian relief workers she had spoken to in recent days told her they no longer felt safe in underground bunkers. Schools, such as they are, operating in basements, have been shut since early July in rebel-held eastern Aleppo. They were scheduled to resume on Saturday, though that now seems unlikely, Anning said. There was little indication Monday that diplomacy could be revived to stop the Aleppo assault, with each side blaming the other. The Syrian government have said over the past week that they intend to retake the entire city by force if necessary. Syria’s foreign minister, Walid al-Moallem, said in a television interview that he considered Pindostan responsible for the collapse of the cease-fire and that Ban’s comments on the Aleppo bombings were “shameful.” Josh Earnest told reporters at the White House that diplomacy remained for now the only viable option for reducing the fighting in Syria and ending the war. He said:
It is hard to imagine Pindostan reaching any other negotiated agreement with the Russians until they have lived up to the commitments they have already made.