Monday, 2 May 2016

As bombs fall, Aleppo asks: 'where are the Americans?'

 'Recovering in Turkey after a deadly air strike on a hospital in Aleppo, all that Abu Abdu Tebyiah could think about was the six children he had been forced to leave behind.

 “They are too young to be on their own,” Mr Tebyiah told the Telegraph. “The government is using barrel bombs on our neighbourhood again, so I stopped them going to school. They are now in great danger.”

 Mr Tebyiah said the only way to bring his children to Turkey, which closed its border to fleeing Syrians earlier this year, was to pay smugglers $500 for each child - money he did not have.

 “The fighting there is very alarming,” a US State Department spokesman said when asked why America did not try to halt the escalating violence in Aleppo. "But the situation is very complex," he added.Thousands of Aleppo's people have fled in the last 72 hours, according to Ismail al-Abdullah, an activist living in the city who said that residents were afraid of what is to come.

 “Many gather between 5 and 6am under the cover of darkness, before they can be spotted by the planes,” he said.

 The regime's air strikes have become a grim routine - always beginning at 7am, pounding the rebel side of the city, where some 200,000 people still live. Zahra al-Mansour and her three children were among those leaving. Carrying only a hastily packed bag of schoolbooks, food and clothes, she did not know exactly where they was going, but she knew they had to get away before the Syrian and Russian bombs started dropping.

 Ms Mansour, a 38-year-old teacher, had stayed in Aleppo out of loyalty to her husband - a rebel fighter who was killed in battle last Christmas - and after his death out of a pride that had stopped her from leaving the only city she has called home.

 “No matter how bad it got, I somehow always had faith we would be ok,” she told the Telegraph. “This time it is different. Every street is marked by war - I realise now Assad will not stop until there is no one left.”

 Kyle Orton, a Middle East analyst at the Henry Jackson Society, believes that America’s inertia shows that President Vladimir Putin of Russia, Assad’s loyal ally, is now calling the shots.

 “Russia has always had a clear idea of what this ceasefire is - a cover for them to consolidate and plan what we are now seeing,” he said.

 “The US seems to have been torn between understanding the ceasefire was a mirage, establishing a Plan B in the event of its failure, and on the other hand really committing to the process and going along with the pretence that the truce is in operation long after it has clearly failed. It just looks like they’ve sided with Russia by allowing them to claim the city is full of terrorists. The Americans have effectively signed off on Russia taking over the city.”

 “The Russians are great friends to Assad,” said the activist, Mr Abdullah. “We can’t say the same for the Americans. When we heard Mr Kerry say Aleppo was run by al-Qaeda we realised we were on our own. There are no terrorists where the government is bombing - it is a lie that everyone is agreeing to accept for the sake of the ceasefire agreement.”

 With only one road out of Aleppo for those who live in the rebel-held east, residents worry that if the regime forces manage to sever that lifeline, then thousands will be besieged.

 Fadi Hakim, a doctor from Aleppo, said: “This offensive will leave thousands encircled, without food and without medicine. The regime has already bombed the hospitals and its doctors so when the casualties mount up there is no one left to treat them.

 “It will be a massacre, the likes of which we haven’t seen before.” '

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