Middle East (NI) – At the beginning of this year, former prime minister of Portugal, António Guterres, became the new United Nations Secretary-General. He arrives at a time when the role of international institutions and the so-called established order are…
During the last days of December, Russia will host a round of diplomatic talks with Iran and Turkey.
A hundred years ago, Ernst Jünger described a peculiar encounter with a frightened British officer in his account of trench warfare, Storm of Steel: “he reached into his pocket, not to pull out a weapon, but a photograph (…). I saw him on it, surrounded by numerous family (…). It was a plea from another world.” According to conventional wisdom, “war is hell,” as famously sentenced by General Sherman. Hence Jünger’s depiction of the scene as something from another planet. And that is how the world today, more concerned with the holidays and the latest Hollywood blockbuster, is receiving the dire plea for help by multiple civilians caught in the crossfire of the battle for Aleppo. We simply content ourselves with the thought that civilians will always suffer in times of war, for war is hell. Or is it?
A few days ago, the soon to be replaced Secretary General of the United Nations, Ban Ki-moon, gave his last press conference. Referring to the humanitarian crisis in Syria, he remarked ominously: “Aleppo is now a synonym for hell”. But surely the Secretary General did not intend merely to describe a regrettable fait accompli, as someone might depict a natural disaster. His closing official words carry a message for the world to actively engage in Aleppo, and particularly to make belligerents stop targeting civilians, for not everything is allowed in war after all. As Michael Walzer has pointed out in his decades-long effort to revive the Just War tradition, we strive to fight wars justly and to uphold rules even in the midst of hell.
Mass graves of torture victims have been uncovered in liberated Aleppo, Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov said Monday.
“Mass burial sites of many dozens [of Syrians], who had been subjected to brutal torture and [then] murdered, have been found,” Maj. Gen. Konashenkov said. “In many cases, body parts are missing; most victims had been shot in the head. And this, it seems, is only the beginning.”
Konashenkov said that the instances are being recorded as serious war crimes and will be given maximum publicity “so that European backers of the so-called opposition in London and Paris are well aware of who their wards actually are.”
The Egyptian Ministry of Interior (MOI) posted on Facebook that they’ve arrested four men and one woman for allegedly making videos to be distributed as “footage from Aleppo, Syria.”
The suspects were arrested in the city of Port Said, allegedly mid photo shoot with a 12 year old girl. The girl was “wearing a white dress coloured in red, in a way that resembles blood” and holding a teddy bear (both covered in fake blood) in an area that “looked like Aleppo” but was actually just ruins in Port Said.
In an interview with RT, the Syrian President warned against taking statements by western governments at face value, as in Aleppo, they seemed to care more about saving terrorists than civilians. He also slammed the lackluster reaction to Daesh’s onslaught on Palmyra.
President Bashar Assad sat down for an interview with RT’s Maria Finoshina as the war in Syria has hit a new critical point with the Syrian Army’s liberation of Aleppo and Daesh’s return to Palmyra. Here’s a fragment of the interview, which is to be exclusively aired on RT on Wednesday.
Protect Civilians, Grant Access to Independent Monitors
Syrian government and allied forces should immediately take steps to protect civilians and captured fighters as the government retakes control of Aleppo after a deal was reached with armed opposition groups there, Human Rights Watch said today. This includes allowing the safe evacuation of civilians and aid deliveries, and protecting civilians from summary executions and arbitrary detention.
The United Nations General Assembly should urgently mandate a UN monitoring team to travel immediately to areas of eastern Aleppo, now under government control, to deter future abuses, document crimes that have been committed, and visit detention sites.
“It has been heart-wrenching to hear the desperate pleas for protection from civilians stuck in the inferno that is Aleppo,” said Lama Fakih, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. “The Syrian authorities should ensure that civilians are allowed to safely leave the city and to go where they want.”
With the crushing defeat in Aleppo close, terrorist groups intensify their activities in the Idlib province (governorate). Debacle now appears to be a matter of when, not if. And if is very close. The Russia-supported Syrian forces have scored a big victory to turn the tide of war, but the conflict remains far from over. The rebels still control significant chunks of territory, notably in Idlib. The province represents the largest geographic area currently held by opposition groups, most importantly Jabhat al-Nusra (the new name is Jabhat Fatah al-Sham) and Jund al-Aqsa.
As hundreds of rebels were surrendering and leaving the positions in the eastern part of Aleppo, Sunni extremist group Ahrar al-Sham attacked the Shia enclaves, Fouah and Kafraya, in Idlib with dozens of Grad rockets. The attack is rather symbolic. Actually, the fall of Aleppo is the beginning of the battle for the governorate. The attacks signify the end of previous cessation of hostilities accords reached there in 2015.
After the fall of the Soviet Union, the United States had to get a little more creative to help justify and garnish public support for its foreign interventions. Terrorism as a chronic threat helps to rally public approval for military defense spending, but expensive foreign wars are rarely popular among civilians. One theme we see pop-up anytime the United States attempts to justify a regime change is humanitarian concern: Iraq, Libya, and most recently Syria. Anti-Assad propaganda is especially useful for the United States for a few reasons. First it helps to convince the American public that Assad is a brutal dictator who must be overthrown; thus justifying intervention. Second, it helps minimize public back-lash over the United States’ own atrocities and war crimes. (“Who cares if the US has ulterior motives for overthrowing Assad; the guy needs to go either way, right?”) Lastly, since Russia is supporting the Syrian government against United States-sponsored rebels, the US gets to use any damage in rebel-held territory as anti-Russia and anti-Assad propaganda. Enter the Syrian Civil Defense aka the White Helmets.
Funded and Fueled by the US and UK
As of May 2016, the United States Agency for International Development has provided over $23 million to Syrian civil defense teams– just like the White Helmets. USAID defines these teams as “impartial emergency responders” who do not support either side in the war. However, at the same time the USAID report states that the teams have a second purpose to “amplify the efforts of moderate actors and strengthen public support for moderate values.” “Moderate actors” would be of course the US-sponsored “moderate rebel” fighters but also includes “national, provincial and local level” civilians that uphold pro-West, pro-intervention, anti-Assad opinions. Members of the White Helmets also travel for training to camps in Turkey– which just so happen to be a pro-intervention NATO ally.
Syrian military forces intensified attacks against terrorist groups in the city of Aleppo, making advances on eastern neighborhoods of the strategic city.
The Syrian army’s advance on eastern Aleppo follows a siege of the terrorist-held area, where a quarter of a million people are estimated to be living.
Meanwhile, the army has provided safe passages for civilians to flee the terrorist-held neighborhoods, declaring that any individual who reaches the Syrian army positions will be safe and not arrested.
The Syrian army secured a road into the government-held side of Aleppo that was captured by Takfiri terrorists last month and was expected to open it soon for civilians, state-owned al-Ikhbariya TV reported.
The advance by the Syrian army and allied forces in the Ramousah area of southern Aleppo has reopened the main route into the government-held west while resulting in the complete re-encirclement of the city’s militant-held east.
“It is not possible to risk my two children’s lives at this deadly point, they are all I have in this world,” Shamel Al Ahmad was quoted by the ‘Humans of Aleppo‘ page as saying.
Shamel was a well-known Syrian photographer, journalist and activist who decided to stay in Aleppo and use his talent in the fight against both the Assad regime and ISIS.
The following is Shamel’s last letter to the world. It was shared on the Humans of Aleppo page as well as numerous social media accounts. Shamel passed away on September 2, 2016 along with his wife. He was killed by an airstrike, one of the many airstrikes launched by the Assad regime and the Russian government on Aleppo.
The Syrian Army has surrounded the jihadist-held portions of the city of Aleppo. Offering fighters a chance to lay down their weapons and leave the city, the government is hoping to liberate the area and help put an end to Syria’s long war. However, analysts are warning against too much optimism. Encirclement, they note, does not mean victory.
On Friday, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu announced that Moscow and Damascus has launched a massive humanitarian operation in Aleppo, establishing exit routes for civilians and any militants wishing to leave the jihadist-held portions of the city. Three routes were designated for civilians, along with a fourth for militants with weapons and equipment.
In Aleppo the fierce fighting continues. After the peace agreement was broken by the armed opposition, Syrian government forces launched an offensive in order to completely blockade and take control of the western part of the city that had been seized by militants.
Anti-government forces regularly shell civilians in Aleppo’s Christian neighborhoods and in the Sheikh Maqsood district that is inhabited by Kurds. One result of this new phase in the military campaign has been an increase in the influence of jihadist groups, especially Jabhat al-Nusra. It is this group and its allies that Turkey and the US are trying to proclaim the «moderate opposition», which is supposedly capable of battling the Islamic State. But when it comes to their methods for disposing of political opponents and Christians, these radical Islamic groups are indistinguishable.
The leader of al-Qaeda urges the «moderate» and «radical» militants to unite
Note should be made of yet another jihadist group that emerged in Syria in March-April of last year. They are known as Jaish al-Fatah. That group incorporates Ahrar ash-Sham and Jund al-Aqsa, in addition to Jabhat al-Nusra. Most experts consider Ahrar ash-Sham to be the same type of Salafi-jihadist group as Jabhat al-Nusra, which is included in the UN Security Council’s list of terrorist organizations.
A truce in Aleppo in northern Syria between Syrian army and armed opposition forces that was due to expire late Monday has been extended by 48 hours, the army command said.
“The ‘regime of silence’ in Aleppo and its province has been extended by 48 hours from Tuesday 01:00 am (local time) to midnight on Wednesday,” a statement early Tuesday said.
The temporary truce, initially for two days and then prolonged until Tuesday at 00:01 am (21:01 GMT Monday), was decided after fighting killed nearly 300 people since April 22 in Aleppo, where some areas are held by opposition and others by government forces.