Ex­o­dus as Syria rebels lose north­east Aleppo

The Myanmar Times - - World -

SYRIA’S rebels lost all of the north­ern neigh­bour­hoods of their strong­hold in east Aleppo as the army made sig­nif­i­cant ad­vances in its of­fen­sive to re­cap­ture the en­tire city.

The regime gains have prompted an ex­o­dus of thou­sands of des­per­ate civil­ians, some flee­ing to dis­tricts held by the gov­ern­ment or Kur­dish forces, oth­ers head­ing south into ar­eas still un­der op­po­si­tion con­trol.

“The sit­u­a­tion is dis­as­trous,” said Ibrahim Abu Al-Leith, a spokesper­son for the White Hel­mets res­cue group in the An­sari neigh­bour­hood.

“There is mass dis­place­ment and morale is in the gut­ter,” he said, his voice crack­ing with emo­tion.

The loss of eastern Aleppo would be a dev­as­tat­ing blow to Syria’s rebels, who seized the area in 2012.

The op­po­si­tion has steadily lost ter­ri­tory since Rus­sia in­ter­vened to bol­ster Pres­i­dent Bashar al-Assad in Septem­ber 2015.

On Novem­ber 28, gov­ern­ment forces seized the Sakhur, Hay­dariya and Sheikh Khodr dis­tricts, and Kur­dish fight­ers took the Sheikh Fares neigh­bour­hood from rebels, the Syr­ian Ob­ser­va­tory for Hu­man Rights mon­i­tor said. The ad­vances left all of north­east Aleppo un­der gov­ern­ment con­trol.

Nearly 10,000 civil­ians have fled the east, the Ob­ser­va­tory said, with about 6000 mov­ing to the Kur­dish­held Sheikh Maq­sud neigh­bour­hood and 4000 to west Aleppo.

The United Na­tions said it was “deeply con­cerned” about civil­ians in the east, where in­ter­na­tional aid is ex­hausted and food stocks low.

Syria’s Al-Watan daily, which is close to the gov­ern­ment, said the next stage would be “to di­vide the re­main­ing (rebel-held) area into dis­tricts that will be eas­ily con­trolled and to cap­ture them suc­ces­sively”.

But Bri­tish For­eign Sec­re­tary Boris John­son called for an im­me­di­ate cease­fire in Aleppo, say­ing the as­sault “is threat­en­ing a hu­man­i­tar­ian catas­tro­phe”. –

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