News / Middle East

    UN Warns of Crisis as Syrian Forces Squeeze Aleppo

    Syrians Flee Death on 'Mass Scale'i
    X
    February 09, 2016 5:11 AM
    Syrians fleeing death in Russian air raids or in fighting between Syrian government troops and rebels are massing at the border with Turkey. Meanwhile, a United Nations report says detainees held by the Syrian government are being killed on a massive scale amounting to a state policy of "extermination" of the civilian population. Zlatica Hoke reports.

    The United Nations warned Tuesday that if pro-government forces in Syria succeed in encircling the strategic city of Aleppo then up to 300,000 people could be cut off from humanitarian aid.

    In an assessment of the situation in Aleppo, the U.N. said the Aleppo offensive has already cut rebel supply lines between the eastern part of the city and the Bab al-Salam crossing on the Turkish border.

    Further advances into the city could send another 100,000 to 150,000 civilians fleeing Aleppo.

    The World Food Program said Tuesday it is distributing urgently needed meals to 21,000 people who fled Aleppo to A'zaz, just south of the Turkish border.

    Volatile, fluid situation

    Jakob Kern, WFP director in Syria, called the situation in Aleppo "quite volatile and fluid."

    FILE - Syrian walk at a camp near the Bab al-Salam border crossing with Turkey, in Syria, Feb. 6, 2016. Thousands of Syrians have rushed toward the Turkish border, fleeing fierce Syrian government offensives and intense Russian airstrikes.
    FILE - Syrian walk at a camp near the Bab al-Salam border crossing with Turkey, in Syria, Feb. 6, 2016. Thousands of Syrians have rushed toward the Turkish border, fleeing fierce Syrian government offensives and intense Russian airstrikes.

    Pro-government forces have pounded their way toward Aleppo during the past week in their effort to crush rebels who have been fighting President Bashar al-Assad's regime for more than five years.

    “If that happens, the rebel momentum will be gone,” said Omar Lamrani, a military analyst for Stratfor, geopolitical intelligence firm based out of Texas. “If Aleppo were to fall, it would highlight how dire the situation is for the rebels throughout the country.”

    Russian warplanes have been relentlessly bombing northern Syria for days, forcing U.S.-backed and other rebel forces to take shelter in tunnels and blast craters.

    One young rebel fighter told VOA that morale has dropped to rock bottom as anti-Assad fighters feel the West has abandoned them.

    “I have spoken with the ambassadors and their staffs of the U.S., Britain and France, and asked them, ‘What will you do other than make statement?’ ” said Zakaria Malahefji, political officer to the 3,000-strong Fastaqim Kama Umirt brigade.

    US game plan

    With government troops backed by Russian air power and Iranian-backed ground forces seizing the north of the city and threatening to move south to link up with government-held parts of the city, it does not appear that Washington can do much.

    FILE - People inspect the damage after airstrikes by pro-Syrian government forces in the rebel held al-Sakhour neighbourhood of Aleppo, Syria, Feb. 5, 2016.
    FILE - People inspect the damage after airstrikes by pro-Syrian government forces in the rebel held al-Sakhour neighbourhood of Aleppo, Syria, Feb. 5, 2016.

    “The U.S. has its game plan, and that is the negotiating table,” Lamrani said.

    But with Syrian forces gaining ground, the attraction for the Syrian government of a political solution over a military one appears to be fading fast.

    Talks in Geneva for a political solution to Syria’s conflict stalled last week after just two days on differences between Syria and the opposition on the priority of humanitarian issues.

    The U.S. State Department said Russia was also partly to blame.

    "It is difficult in the extreme to see how strikes against civilian targets contribute in any way to the peace process now being explored," spokesman John Kirby said.

    Russian investment

    Although the Russians have lost men and money, Lamrani said it appeared that their investment was paying off, to the detriment of the Syrian opposition and its U.S.-led coalition backers.

    “They are highlighting they are a power in the Middle East,” he said. The Russians and Iranians are also pushing to create a situation whereby the “only really viable choices are the Syrian government or Islamic State – and IS is a non-option.”

    “By removing the rebels from the equation, then essentially it is game over,” Lamrani said.

    But the conflict could also get more complicated and more drawn out.

    Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar, unwilling to cede such influence to Syria and its allies, might decide that one way to force everyone back to the negotiating table is to raise the cost of the military campaign by bolstering the rebels with more money and bigger and deadlier weapons.

    “They want to maintain a stake in the conflict,” Lamrani said. “They still want the U.S. to stay close and give them cover against Russia to keep Russian ambitions at bay.”

    VOA’s Jamie Dettmer contributed to this report from the Turkish-Syrian border, Chris Hannas contributed from Washington.


    Sharon Behn

    Sharon Behn is a foreign correspondent working out of Voice of America’s headquarters in Washington D.C  Her current beat focuses on political, security and humanitarian developments in Iraq, Syria and Turkey. Follow Sharon on Twitter and on Facebook.

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    Comment Sorting
    Comments
         
    by: Anonymous
    February 09, 2016 11:56 AM
    How about these?

    The Kurds being killed daily by the Turks inside Turkey.
    The weeks long round the clock curfew and siege of Kurdish towns in Turkey by the Turkish military. Direct shooting of Kurdish civilians by the Turks inside Turkey.
    Why is no one reporting on that?

    The Yemenis being killed daily by Saudis inside Yemen, why is no one reporting on that?

    by: meanbill from: USA
    February 09, 2016 9:06 AM
    A Wise Man said that the Russians and Syrian army has a real chance to end this Syrian war this year, [if], the US and NATO quits throwing roadblocks up to prevent them from doing it? .. The US and NATO had their chance for 5 years, to end the Syrian war and defeat the terrorists, (but they failed), and they couldn't stop the terrorists from taking over 3/4 of all Syria, [so now], give the Russians and the Syrian army the chance to do what they failed to do? .. The longer the war lasts, the more innocent Syrians will suffer and die or become displaced homeless migrants? .. Living under terrorist rule and war, is far worse than living under Assad, no matter what the propagandists say?

    The US and NATO demands for a Russian and Syrian army ceasefire to help the Syrian civilians is a ploy so they can rearm, resupply and reposition the terrorists that they support, (to prolong the war) and undermine the Russian and Syrian army winning blitzkrieg strategy, so the terrorists that they support can continue their war on Assad and Syria? .. This war has destroyed Syria, and everyday it lasts, it will cause millions of innocent Syrian civilians to suffer and die or become displaced homeless migrants? .. Now why would anybody want to prolong this Syrian war for any reason? .. to protect the terrorists? .. or to get rid of Assad? .. It's insanity at it's worst? .. isn't it?
    In Response

    by: JR from: Texas
    February 09, 2016 9:35 AM
    That symbol?... I do not think it means what you think it means?

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