Friday, 22 July 2016

Aleppo: Is besieged Syrian city facing last gasp?

Site damaged by barrel-bomb in Aleppo Old City (July 2016)

 Diana Darke:

'Aleppo is no stranger to sieges - there have been at least eight recorded across its turbulent history. But this one promises to last longer than all the others put together.
 Many of the 300,000-plus unfortunates trapped inside face the prospect of slowly starving as extortionately-priced food, medicine and fuel supplies are systematically blocked.
 Some will die before then from the Syrian and Russian government barrel-bombing. Latterly supplemented by incendiary cluster munitions burning to 2,500C, the bombers are steadily eradicating schools, hospitals and markets from above with impunity.

 Last week, a report by the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) accusing the Syrian government of failing to declare its stocks of sarin and other illegal warfare agents for the Russian-brokered 2013 chemical weapons deal, raised barely a murmur in the Western media.
 Syria's moderate opposition groups have suffered years of broken promises of support from the international community. Myriad proclamations of "Assad must go" were followed by handwringing from the sidelines. But even the rebels were not prepared for the latest twist that took place in Moscow a few days ago; when John Kerry agreed with Sergei Lavrov to coordinate US-Russian military strikes on the so-called Islamic State (IS) and Syria's al-Qaeda-affiliate Jabhat al-Nusra. Nusra's aim has always been to set up Islamic emirates inside Syria, an ideology at odds with Syria's Free Syrian Army (FSA)-linked moderate opposition, yet the two have often found themselves allies of convenience in the fight against President Assad. The dynamics of the battlefield are such that, were Nusra to withdraw their military support or be targeted, the FSA rebels would be left even more vulnerable to attack.
 North of Aleppo they are already battling on three fronts - against IS, the Kurds and the Syrian government. In Aleppo itself there is no IS presence and very little Nusra either - yet civilians on the ground do not trust the bombs will stop simply because of the new US-Russian deal.

The international community is forgetting that all these destabilising factors - the surge of refugees, the exporting of IS terrorism and Jabhat al-Nusra extremism - have been incubating undisturbed inside Syria for the last five years.
 Millions of Syrian civilians have fled and many more will inevitably follow.'

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