Civil­ians flee as Syr­ian forces ad­vance

The Myanmar Times - - World -

SYR­IAN govern­ment forces pushed deeper into rebel-held eastern Aleppo forc­ing civil­ians to flee as the regime pressed an as­sault to re­cap­ture the en­tire city.

Mil­i­tary air­craft dropped leaflets over east Aleppo on Novem­ber 22, urg­ing rebels to dis­trib­ute food to civil­ians, leave the area and al­low res­i­dents to do so too.

The regime pounded east Aleppo with air strikes and bar­rel bombs as ground troops ad­vanced in the key eastern district of Masaken Hanano, the Syr­ian Ob­ser­va­tory for Hu­man Rights said.

A week into the lat­est round of fight­ing for the city, the regime con­trols around a third of the district, the Ob­ser­va­tory said.

The area has been shelled heav­ily dur­ing the war, and many res­i­dents had al­ready fled, but the lat­est fight­ing prompted even the last hold­outs to leave.

Mi­lad Sha­habi, a mem­ber of the lo­cal coun­cil, told AFP that res­i­dents were flee­ing to south­ern parts of the op­po­si­tion-con­trolled east.

Masaken Hanano was the first Aleppo district to fall to rebels in 2012, and it is strate­gi­cally vi­tal.

Ob­ser­va­tory head Rami Ab­del Rah­man said that if regime forces man­age to take the district they will be able to “cut off the north­ern parts of rebel-held Aleppo from the rest of the op­po­si­tion-held dis­tricts”.

At least 143 civil­ians, in­clud­ing 19 chil­dren, have been killed in the city’s east since the lat­est as­sault be­gan on Novem­ber 15, ac­cord­ing to the Bri­tain-based mon­i­tor.

It said res­i­dents of eastern dis­tricts had suf­fered from “suf­fo­ca­tion” af­ter four bar­rel bomb at­tacks and that med­i­cal of­fi­cials sus­pected a chlo­rine gas at­tack.

The Or­gan­i­sa­tion for the Pro­hi­bi­tion for Chem­i­cal Weapons (OPCW) said on Novem­ber 22 that the regime’s key backer Rus­sia had of­fered it “sam­ples” re­lat­ing to an al­leged chem­i­cal at­tack in Aleppo.

The global watch­dog tasked with de­stroy­ing chem­i­cal weapons is prob­ing more than 20 re­ports of the use of toxic arms in Syria since Au­gust.

Govern­ment troops, backed by Le­banon’s Shi­ite Hezbol­lah group and Rus­sian and Ira­nian forces, are bat­tling rebels on sev­eral fronts in­side op­po­si­tion-held dis­tricts.

Iran’s vet­er­ans’ af­fairs of­fice said that more than 1000 com­bat­ants sent from Iran to fight in sup­port of Pres­i­dent Bashar al-As­sad have been killed in the con­flict.

Tehran has sent mil­i­tary advisers, as well as fighters re­cruited from Afghanistan and Pak­istan, to work with As­sad’s forces.

The re­newed fight­ing comes amid in­ter­na­tional con­cern for the fate of more than 250,000 civil­ians trapped in rebel-held ar­eas of Aleppo.

De­spite sear­ing in­ter­na­tional crit­i­cism, there is lit­tle sign that the govern­ment ad­vance will be halted.

Rus­sia ac­cused the UN’s Syria en­voy of tor­pe­do­ing a Se­cu­rity Coun­cil res­o­lu­tion to re­vive peace talks be­tween the regime and op­po­si­tion.

“The UN has been sab­o­tag­ing the res­o­lu­tion for more than six months,” Rus­sian For­eign Min­is­ter Sergei Lavrov said in tele­vised re­marks. –

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