Sunday, 17 July 2016

Rebels fear Assad victory in Syria as noose tightens around Aleppo

A civil defence member looks for survivors amid rubble of damaged houses after an airstrike on rebel-held Old Aleppo.

 I’m sitting here in a ruined house in eastern Aleppo,” said Abu Sobhi Jumail, a Syrian opposition fighter who has fought across northern Syria for the past five years. “I have the Russians in the skies, the Syrian air force too, when its planes can fly. I have Isis to my east, Hezbollah to my north and al-Qaida [Jabhat al-Nusra] in between. They abandon us, and tell us to rely on God, and then condemn us when we are forced to seek help [from al-Nusra]. Without them we would all have been killed a year ago. That is not politics. That is life and death.”

 “We are doomed in Aleppo,” said Suleiman Aboud, who fled with his family from the rebel east of the city in February. “The next phase of this will be revenge. No one has paid a price for all these abuses. That is what hugging Assad does. This revolution was noble. It may not have been fully democratic, but people are allowed to fight oppression. We have the same rights to safety and freedom as you.”

 Acknowledging the immense suffering across rebel-held parts of the country, Gareth Bayley, the UK’s special envoy for Syria, said: “The situation on the ground in Syria is dire. The UK is deeply concerned by the regime and its allies taking ground and harming civilians in Aleppo and rural Damascus. This is in direct violation of the cessation of hostilities and there is appalling suffering amongst the population.”
 There is no way out of eastern Aleppo and north to the Turkish border, with the last remaining supply line severed. A blockade that has all but taken hold over the past year is now likely to be enforced, say the few remaining residents of the eastern half of the city.
 “For a long time people have been out of ideas,” said Abu Subhi. “There is no enthusiasm to assist us. They want it all to go away. But you will all be judged for what has happened in Syria. I won’t be alive to witness it, though.” '

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