Syria regime bombs rebels as Aleppo food aid runs out

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

ALEPPO: Syr­ian govern­ment and Rus­sian war­planes pounded re­bel­held parts of north­ern Syria yes­ter­day, in­clud­ing bat­tered sec­ond city Aleppo, where food aid ra­tions were all-but-ex­hausted after months of regime siege.

The re­newed bom­bard­ment has killed at least 32 peo­ple in Aleppo in the last 24 hours, and sparked anger from Wash­ing­ton and the United Na­tions. It came as Pres­i­dent Bashar alAs­sad said in an in­ter­view that US pres­i­dent-elect Don­ald Trump could be a “nat­u­ral ally” if he fights “ter­ror­ists”.

Da­m­as­cus con­sid­ers all those who op­pose As­sad’s govern­ment to be “ter­ror­ists” like the Is­lamic State group, which Trump has said should be the fo­cus of US in­volve­ment in Syria. Da­m­as­cus and its ally Rus­sia launched a wide-rang­ing as­sault on rebels on Tues­day, shat­ter­ing a month of rel­a­tive calm in the rebel-held east of dev­as­tated Aleppo.

The Syr­ian Ob­ser­va­tory for Hu­man Rights, a Bri­tain-based mon­i­tor, says at least 32 peo­ple, among them six chil­dren, have been killed in govern­ment strikes and ar­tillery fire on be­sieged op­po­si­tion-held dis­tricts since Tues­day. The Independent Doc­tors As­so­ci­a­tion, a med­i­cal group, said bar­rel bomb at­tacks had dam­aged two fa­cil­i­ties it sup­ports in east­ern Alep­pothe chil­dren’s hos­pi­tal and the only blood bank in the area.

Med­i­cal fa­cil­i­ties have reg­u­larly been hit, and some­times com­pletely de­stroyed, in the govern­ment’s fight against rebels, though Da­m­as­cus and Moscow deny they have tar­geted hospi­tals. The Ob­ser­va­tory also re­ported strikes in Idlib prov­ince, in north­west­ern Syria, where six peo­ple were killed in the vil­lage of Kafr Jalis on Tues­day night.

Food aid runs out in Aleppo

“We worked through the night to lift the de­bris and re­move the mar­tyrs and surviving civil­ians, and now we’re try­ing to re­move the rub­ble block­ing the roads,” said Yahya Arja from the White Hel­mets civil de­fense in the prov­ince.

The bom­bard­ment ended a pe­riod of rel­a­tive respite, par­tic­u­larly in east­ern Aleppo, where Moscow halted air strikes on Oc­to­ber 18 ahead of a se­ries of brief cease­fires. The cease­fires were in­tended to en­cour­age res­i­dents and sur­ren­der­ing rebels to leave the east, but few did so, ex­press­ing fear of mov­ing into govern­ment-held ter­ri­tory.

Food aid stock­piled in the east is all­but-ex­hausted, with in­ter­na­tional or­ga­ni­za­tions and their lo­cal part­ners say­ing they were dis­tribut­ing the fi­nal ra­tions in re­cent days. No aid has en­tered the east­ern neigh­bor­hoods since govern­ment troops sur­rounded it in mid-July.

Once Syria’s eco­nomic pow­erhouse, Aleppo has been rav­aged by the war that has killed more than 300,000 peo­ple across the coun­try since it started in March 2011 with anti-govern­ment protests. As­sad ally Rus­sia in­ter­vened in Septem­ber last year in a bid to bol­ster the govern­ment, and on Tues­day said its forces were launch­ing a “ma­jor op­er­a­tion” in Idlib and cen­tral Homs prov­ince, tar­get­ing IS and for­mer AlQaeda af­fil­i­ate Fateh al-Sham Front.

But the bom­bard­ment has been crit­i­cized by both the UN and Wash­ing­ton, with the Gen­eral Assem­bly’s hu­man rights com­mit­tee vot­ing over­whelm­ingly on Tues­day to con­demn es­ca­lat­ing at­tacks on civil­ians. Wash­ing­ton said it had re­ceived re­ports that the lat­est bomb­ing raids had dam­aged civil­ian in­fra­struc­ture in rebel ar­eas. “We strongly con­demn the re­sump­tion of air strikes in Syria by the Rus­sians as well as the Syr­ian regime,” State Depart­ment spokes­woman El­iz­a­beth Trudeau told re­porters. “The most re­cent re­ported at­tacks are on five hospi­tals and one mo­bile clinic in Syria. We be­lieve it’s a vi­o­la­tion of in­ter­na­tional law.”

As­sad open to Trump al­liance

Wash­ing­ton was an early backer of the up­ris­ing against As­sad, and has sup­ported the rebels fight­ing his govern­ment. But that could change un­der the next ad­min­is­tra­tion, with As­sad telling Por­tu­gal’s RTP state tele­vi­sion on Tues­day that he wel­comed Trump’s cam­paign com­ments sug­gest­ing Wash­ing­ton’s in­volve­ment in Syria should be fo­cused ex­clu­sively on fight­ing ji­hadists.

“We can­not tell any­thing about what he’s go­ing to do, but if... he is go­ing to fight the ter­ror­ists, of course we are go­ing to be ally, nat­u­ral ally in that re­gard with the Rus­sian, with the Ira­nian, with many other coun­tries,” As­sad said. Wash­ing­ton al­ready leads an in­ter­na­tional coali­tion car­ry­ing out strikes against IS in Syria and Iraq, but it does not co­or­di­nate with Da­m­as­cus and As­sad’s govern­ment has con­demned it as in­ef­fec­tive.

The coali­tion is sup­port­ing an op­er­a­tion by the Kur­dish-Arab al­liance known as the Syr­ian Demo­cratic Forces to cap­ture the IS bas­tion of Raqa. “We are ad­vanc­ing even though IS is mining the vil­lages as they flee,” SDF com­man­der Rodi Derik told AFP yes­ter­day in the vil­lage of Tuway­laa, re­cently cap­tured from IS. —

IDLIB, Syria: Res­cuers and civil­ians inspect a de­stroyed build­ing in the Syr­ian vil­lage of Kfar Jales, on the out­skirts of Idlib, fol­low­ing air strikes by Syr­ian and Rus­sian war­planes yes­ter­day. —

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