Syrian observer Joseph Bahout tells Arab News: ‘Aleppo’s fall is a matter of time’
WASHINGTON/BEIRUT: The Bashar Assad regime and its allies announced the capture of a large swathe of eastern Aleppo from opposition fighters on Monday in an accelerating attack that threatens to crush the opposition in its most important urban stronghold.
In the face of fierce bombardment and ground attacks, the fighters have withdrawn from the northern part of eastern Aleppo to a more defensible front line along a big highway after losses that threatened to split their enclave.
Thousands of residents were reported to have fled. An anti-regime fighter reached by Reuters said there was “extreme, extreme, extreme pressure” on the opposition fighters.
The regime is now eying a significant victory that could turn the tide of the five-year-old conflict and lay out new dynamics for the incoming US administration.
Regaining control of Jabal Badro, Baadeen, and Hanano districts in the last few days is no small thing for the forces loyal to the regime, experts said.
Despite the humanitarian disaster at hand with 275,000 people trapped in eastern Aleppo, hundreds dead over recent weeks and 10,000 displaced, according to the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, the Aleppo battle is redrawing “the contours” of the war, and preempts the presidency of Donald Trump on Jan. 20 with a new military landscape.
The regime’s ability, supported by Russia, to recapture areas it ceded in 2012, speaks to the symbolism of the operation, as a serious blow to the fighters and one in which heavy bombardment, use of cluster munition and sieges has paid off for Assad.
“Aleppo’s fall is a matter of time,” said Joseph Bahout, a scholar and close follower of the Syrian war at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.
“Given the almost complete lack of logistical support for the Syrian opposition forces and the deafening silence and indifference on the diplomatic front, we can consider that Aleppo has fallen ‘politically,’” Bahout told
The regime’s offensive “has been meticulously prepared for months and includes a wide array of local, national and foreign forces,” said Tobias Schneider, a defense analyst based in Washington.
“The districts captured by the regime over the past 36 hours cut right through the heart of opposition-held Aleppo... and now the regime is throwing its full weight at what remains of the oppositioncontrolled areas by seeking to break the single enclave into three smaller parts,” Schneider added.
Meanwhile, member states of the world’s chemical weapons watchdog have slammed the Assad regime for using poison gas during its civil war and for failing to fully explain the scope of its chemical weapons program.
In Berlin, the head of Germany’s Foreign Affairs Committee, an ally of Chancellor Angela Merkel, called for Berlin to impose sanctions on Russia because of its supporting role in the war in Syria.
Syrians walk through rubble of damaged buildings as they flee clashes between regime forces and opposition fighters in eastern Aleppo on Monday. (Reuters)