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October 23, 2016 / 21 Tishri, 5777

Posts Tagged ‘Aleppo’

Trump in 2nd Debate: Aleppo Has Already Fallen

Monday, October 10th, 2016

Focusing, as we always do, on the Jewish-Israeli niche of presidential politics, we paid great attention Sunday night to the exchange between candidates Trump and Clinton on the situation in Syria. In general, both debaters agreed the situation was tough, and neither was eager to get into specific solutions. What stood out for us was the statement by Donald Trump that the battle of Aleppo between the US-backed rebels and the coalition of Assad, the Russians, Iran and Hezbollah will go to the pro-Assad forces.

Martha Raddatz (ABC News) asked Trump: “What do you think will happen if [Aleppo] falls?” Which Trump answered, “I think that it basically has fallen. OK? It basically has fallen.”

It should be noted that on Saturday in the UN Security Council Russia vetoed a French resolution calling for an immediate halt to its air strikes on east Aleppo, where reportedly hundreds of civilians are being killed, including many children. The Russian delegation, accusing the rest of the council of “Russophobia,” watched many council members walk off as the Russians were giving the floor to an envoy of the Assad regime. The Russians are fast running out of friends over this campaign — except, apparently, for Trump, who described Allepo as collateral damage of the effort to destroy the real enemy of the US in the Middle East — ISIS.

“I don’t like Assad at all, but Assad is killing ISIS,” Trump said during Sunday night’s debate. “Russia is killing ISIS. And Iran is killing ISIS. And those three have now lined up because of our weak foreign policy.”

Raddatz pointed Trump’s attention to the fact that not only the entire Western world objects to what the Russians have been doing in Syria, but his own running mate, Mike Pence, had said a week ago, that the “provocations by Russia need to be met with American strength and that if Russia continues to be involved in air strikes along with the Syrian government forces of Assad, the United States of America should be prepared to use military force to strike the military targets of the Assad regime.”

Trump, who had praised Pence’s debate performance, came right out and said, “OK, he and I haven’t spoken, and I disagree. I disagree.”

Raddatz: “You disagree with your running mate?”

Trump: “I think you have to knock out ISIS. Right now, Syria is fighting ISIS. We have people that want to fight both at the same time. But Syria is no longer Syria. Syria is Russia and it’s Iran, who [Clinton] made strong and Kerry and Obama made into a very powerful nation and a very rich nation, very, very quickly, very, very quickly.

“I believe we have to get ISIS. We have to worry about ISIS before we can get too much more involved. She had a chance to do something with Syria. They had a chance. And that was the line. And she didn’t.”

To delineate Trump’s foreign policy point on Aleppo from all of the above, the defeat of ISIS justifies permitting Russia, Iran, the Assad regime and its Hezbollah satellite to recapture all of Syria and turn it into their permanent base, with all the ramifications for Lebanon, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Iraq, and, of course, Israel.

A debate then ensued between Raddatz, who as her network’s Chief Global Affairs Correspondent is probably familiar with the issue, and Trump, over the need for secrecy before attacking a target like the oil rich city of Mosul in Iraq. “The biggest problem I have with the stupidity of our foreign policy, we have Mosul,” Trump argued. “They think a lot of the ISIS leaders are in Mosul. So we have announcements coming out of Washington and coming out of Iraq, we will be attacking Mosul in three weeks or four weeks.”

“Well, all of these bad leaders from ISIS are leaving Mosul,” he continued. “Why can’t they do it quietly? Why can’t they do the attack, make it a sneak attack, and after the attack is made, inform the American public that we’ve knocked out the leaders, we’ve had a tremendous success? People leave. Why do they have to say we’re going to be attacking Mosul within the next four to six weeks, which is what they’re saying? How stupid is our country?”

Raddatz suggested, “There are sometimes reasons the military does that. Psychological warfare.”

Trump retorted, “I can’t think of any. I can’t think of any. And I’m pretty good at it.”

Raddatz: “It might be to help get civilians out.”

Perhaps. Trump could also be correct in pointing out that the US campaign in Iraq has remained as undisciplined and as badly coordinated as it has been since the 2003 invasion, under two different administrations.

Hillary Clinton sounded as hapless as the Obama Administration when she said the Russians don’t care about ISIS, and are instead “interested in keeping Assad in power.” As remedy, she proposed: “…when I was secretary of state, I advocated and I advocate today a no-fly zone and safe zones. We need some leverage with the Russians, because they are not going to come to the negotiating table for a diplomatic resolution, unless there is some leverage over them. And we have to work more closely with our partners and allies on the ground.”

Of course, there’s no way the US and its allies would be able to enforce a no-fly zone on the Russian air force, short of starting WW3, which is why Clinton sounded hollow when she declared, “I’ve stood up to Russia. I’ve taken on Putin and others, and I would do that as president.” And she sounded even less realistic when she warned, “…I do support the effort to investigate for crimes, war crimes committed by the Syrians and the Russians and try to hold them accountable.”

Hillary Clinton then committed a blunder that could haunt her in the future should she be elected president, when she suggested, “There are a lot of very important planning going on, and some of it is to signal to the Sunnis in the area, as well as Kurdish Peshmerga fighters, that we all need to be in this. And that takes a lot of planning and preparation. … I would also consider arming the Kurds. The Kurds have been our best partners in Syria, as well as Iraq. And I know there’s a lot of concern about that in some circles, but I think they should have the equipment they need so that Kurdish and Arab fighters on the ground are the principal way that we take Raqqa after pushing ISIS out of Iraq.”

That’s not something an American president should say if he or she wish to elicit Turkey’s support in the Syrian campaign. Proposing to arm the Kurds sounds about as bad to Ankara as the idea of the US arming Hamas would be received in Jerusalem. That would be one of those cases where Clinton would be well advised to have one policy for public consumption and another for insiders.

You probably noticed we did not deal at all with the Trump tapes or the Clinton emails, because everyone else in the media are offering a wealth of information on those. We only tried to point out that when it comes to one of Israel’s most burning issues, the escalation of the war north of its border, neither candidate has offered a particularly convincing formula, and Clinton actually declared she would definitely keep US ground troops out of the Syrian civil war.

We should note with satisfaction that Israel was not mentioned even once in the debate and neither was the two-state solution or Jewish settlements. Thankfully, both candidates are too clever to step on that landmine.


Aleppo Becomes No. 18 on UN ‘Besieged Areas in Syria’ List

Wednesday, October 5th, 2016

The northern Syrian city of Aleppo — specifically, the eastern portion of the city — has officially been classified by the United Nations as a “besieged area.”

The designation follows an unending stream of attacks over a period of months in which Syrian regime forces have been battering away at the eastern side of the city, a stronghold of opposition forces.

Aid workers have been unable to gain access to the area to deliver humanitarian supplies, despite several negotiated ceasefires, all of which have been violated.

UN Humanitarian Agency spokesperson Jens Laerke announced Wednesday that in light of the most recent violation of the ceasefire arranged by Russia and the United States, Aleppo meets all three official criteria for designation of a besieged area: 1. military encirclement 2. lack of humanitarian access, and 3. lack of free movement for civilians.

An estimated 250,000 to 275,000 civilians remain trapped in eastern Aleppo, without the means to access medical or other care, or supplies.

Because the western portion of the city is controlled by the Syrian government, those residents do have access to some aid.

There are 17 other areas in Syria with similar designations.

Hana Levi Julian

Emergency Session on Syria at UN Security Council

Monday, September 26th, 2016

The United Nations Security Council held urgent talks Sunday in response to a summons by the United States, UK and France for an emergency meeting over the ongoing bombing of Aleppo by Russia and Syrian regime forces.

British Ambassador Matthew Rycroft told reporters the incendiary munitions that have been dropping on Aleppo are “indiscriminate and a clear breach of international law. The barrel-busting bombs are falling from the skies likewise.”

French Ambassador Francois Delattre was more blunt: “War crimes are being committed in Aleppo. They must not be unpunished and impunity is simply not an option in Syria.”

According to U.S. Ambassador Samantha Power, more than 150 air strikes targeted the northern Syrian city between Friday and Sunday night. The death toll has reached 115 in the assault, including at least 19 children, according to the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

A number of cluster bombs remain undetonated and sitting in the streets of eastern Aleppo where some 250,000 civilians are under siege in a section of the city that is populated by many who support the opposition forces.

Close to half a million people have died in the conflict since March 2011, and some 11 million others have been driven from their homes.

According to local Syrian sources, most of the air strikes currently targeting Aleppo are being carried out by Russian fighter jets. “No ISIS fighters are in the targeted areas; all the victims are civilians,” the source tweeted.

UNICEF reported that although repair efforts are ongoing at the damaged pumping station for east Aleppo, 100,000 children have had no safe drinking water for the past three days.

Hana Levi Julian

Massacre in Aleppo As Syrian War Escalates After Collapse of Ceasefire

Sunday, September 25th, 2016

An existential battle raged Saturday night between government troops and opposition forces for control over the Handarat Arab refugee camp on the northern outskirts of the Syian city of Aleppo.

Regime loyalist troops and its allies seized control over the camp on Saturday, according to Reuters journalist Tom Perry, but opposition forces counter attacked at nightfall.

More than 250,000 residents are still trapped in besieged east Aleppo, a rebel stronghold. The UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the battle that began Thursday was still ongoing late Saturday night.

Hundreds of thousands of Syrians have died since the start of the war in March 2011, and approximately 11 million others have been driven from their homes. A fragile ceasefire worked out two weeks ago between the United States and Russia lasted barely a week. Syria’s regime forces announced an end to the truce nearly simultaneously with a ferocious attack on a United Nations humanitarian aid convoy that was to be allowed to deliver desperately needed food and medical supplies to east Aleppo last week. At least 20 civilians, including a Syrian Arab Red Crescent (SARC) medical staff worker, were killed in the assault for which neither side has been willing to take responsibility.

But that attack unleashed a storm of fury at the United Nations and among humanitarian agencies, not least of which included those that were attacked. In a statement released last week following the massacre, the SARC and International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said they were “outraged by [the] horrific attack on a SARC warehouse and an aid convoy in Orem Al Kubra in rural Aleppo…. The attack deprives thousands of civilians of much-needed food and medical assistance. We’re totally devastated by the deaths of so many people, including one of our colleagues, the director of our sub-branch, Omar Barakat.

“Syria is one of the most dangerous conflicts for humanitarian workers in the world. During the past six years, 54 staff and volunteers of SARC have lost their lives whilst carrying out their duties.”

According to a UN official quoted by the Associated Press, nearly two million people in the northern part of Aleppo are currently without running water; the pumps were destroyed in one of the air strikes.

A report by the AFP news agency described scenes in eastern Aleppo of “pools of blood and shredded bodies on the streets” and said the city has been “reduced to an apocalyptic battlefront.”

At least 100, possibly more civilians, including women and children, were killed and hundreds more injured in intensive air strikes that are being described by international reporters across the board as a massacre. Photographic tweets showing the result of the air strikes have been deemed too graphic for our readership and so are not included here.

Some 200 air strikes have pounded the city since Friday, according to the Syria Civil Defense volunteer emergency medical group. At least five members of the group, also called the White Helmets, were injured in one of the air strikes, according to CNN. One is in critical condition.

A spokesperson for United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon warned Saturday that the use of bunker-buster bombs, incendiary weapons and the intensive air strikes that had taken place in densely populated areas such as Aleppo may amount to war crimes.

“The secretary-general is appalled by the chilling military escalation in the city of Aleppo, which is facing the most sustained and intense bombardment since the start of the Syrian conflict,” the statement said. “The secretary-general considers this a dark day for the global commitment to protect civilians,” Ban’s spokesperson said.

Hana Levi Julian

UN Halting Humanitarian Aid Following Air Attack on Aleppo Convoy [video]

Tuesday, September 20th, 2016

The UN has announced on Tuesday that it is suspending all aid convoys across Syria, following an air attack on relief trucks near Aleppo that killed a Syrian Arab Red Crescent staff member and about 20 civilians, and destroyed a warehouse and hospital.

UN humanitarian aid spokesman Jens Laerke told reporters in Geneva that “as an immediate security measure, other convoy movements in Syria have been suspended for the time being pending further assessment of the security situation.” But he added that the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) remains “committed to stay and deliver to everybody in need in Syria.”

Local war monitors are blaming either the Syrians or the Russians for the strike against the aid convoy near Aleppo on Monday, which came after the Syrians had declared an end to the week-long ceasefire.

The attack may have been done in retaliation for last Saturday’s airstrikes by US planes against Syrian regime forces who had been under siege by ISIS in the town of Deir ez-Zor. At least 62 Syrian servicemen were killed and more than 100 wounded in what the Americans described as a mistake.

Igor Konashenkov, an official spokesman for the Russian defense ministry said on Tuesday that “no airstrikes on the UN humanitarian convoy in the southwestern outskirts of Aleppo were carried out by the Russian or Syrian forces.”

“The Russian side did not monitor the movement of the UN truck convoy that came under attack near Aleppo after the humanitarian cargo was delivered to that city,” he added.

“If this callous attack is found to be a deliberate targeting of humanitarians, it would amount to a war crime,” UN aid chief Stephen O’Brien said in a statement. He noted that the Syrian government had given the humanitarian convoy permission to move into Aleppo shortly before the attack.

Peter Maurer, president of the ICRC, released a statement saying “yesterday’s attack is a flagrant violation of international humanitarian law and it is unacceptable. Failing to protect humanitarian workers and structures might have serious repercussions on ongoing humanitarian work in the country, hence depriving millions of people of aid essential to their survival.”


80 Syrian Soldiers Killed as Russian-US Ceasefire Wobbles, And Israel Deploys Iron Dome

Sunday, September 18th, 2016

It looks like the ceasefire between Russian and American forces is very shaky, if not ceasing, as Da’esh (ISIS) forces appear to threaten the city of Deir el-Zour.

At least 80 Syrian government forces were killed Saturday in an air strike on a base near the Deir al-Zour airport, but it’s not clear which bomb was responsible.

The Syrian government military loyal to President Bashar al-Assad said it was the U.S.-led coalition that bombed its army base in Deir el-Zour. The force contends that the attack caused casualties and damage to equipment, and allowed Da’sh (ISIS) terrorists to advance on the area.

The UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights confirmed that 80 Syrian soldiers were killed in the strike, citing a source at the airport. But the monitoring group told Reuters that Russian jets — who back the Assad regime — had also been bombing in the same area, at the same time.

The source at the airport confirmed the air strike had the effect of paving the way for Da’esh fighters to overrun Jebel Tharda, according to the UK-based monitoring group.

Russia meanwhile has claimed Syrian opposition forces violated last week’s ceasefire at least 55 times over the weekend, with various clashes, including strikes on military and civilian targets in Aleppo. Russia’s official Interfax news agency quoted Colonel Sergei Kopytsin on Saturday as saying mortar fire and improvised rockets launched by rebels hit Aleppo 26 times.

Syrian state news agency SANA claimed that opposition forces, “insurgents,” violated the ceasefire 12 times in the past 12 hours.

Syrian opposition activists, meanwhile, say that forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad have killed at least five civilians from the opposition contingent. The UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said a woman and child were killed in the central Homs province, in the town of Talbiseh. Two men were also killed outside Damascus and a child was killed in Aleppo.

Israeli military officials decided at the weekend to deploy the Iron Dome anti-missile defense system in the Israeli Golan Heights due to the near-daily “spillover” mortar fire that has been reaching over the Syrian-Israeli border. On Saturday alone, the Iron Dome system intercepted two such attacks, neutralizing both shells before they could land and explode on Israeli territory.

Hana Levi Julian

Another US-Russian Ceasefire Deal for Syria, Again

Sunday, September 11th, 2016

U.S. Secretary of State and Russian Foreign Secretary Sergei Lavrov shook hands Friday on a deal to impose a new cease-fire in Syria after marathon talks in Geneva. More than half a million Syrians have died since the start of the savage civil war that has raged in the country since March 2011.

The truce is scheduled to begin Monday together with the start of the Islamic holiday of Eid al-Fitr.

But few have faith the deal will hold up for more than a few minutes.

The Free Syrian Army (FSA), itself little more than a name on paper for a collection of secular opposition groups backed by the West, quickly dismissed the possibility that this time the deal would bring peace.

Fares al-Bayoush, head of the FSA’s Northern Division group, pointed out that Russia and Syrian government troops had not complied with the previous cease-fire. Likewise, Captain Abdul Salam Abdul Razak, military spokesperson for the Nour al-Din al-Zinki Brigades opposition group said the agreement would only give government troops the opportunity to gather forces and reinforce troops in Aleppo with more Iranian-backed military forces.

British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson also welcomed the agreement but reminded that “broken promises” had been heard before, The Guardian reported. “I call on all parties to the Syria conflict and all countries with influence upon them to do what is needed to end violence and lift sieges,” he said. “In particular, it’s vital that the regime in Damascus now delivers on its obligations, and I call on Russia to use all its influence to ensure this happens.”

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu told Kerry by phone on Saturday that Ankara welcomes the cease-fire. Two and a half weeks ago, Turkey launched its own invasion of Syria after dealing with an endless flood of Syrian refugees through its southeastern border, and numerous “overflow” attacks from the war. Now Ankara has said it will provide humanitarian aid to Aleppo, in northern Syria, in cooperation with the United Nations, following the cease-fire.

It’s not the first time such a cease-fire has been proposed the same two parties; just six months ago, a similar truce was made, and violated repeatedly by both sides almost immediately. Before that, the two sides worked out a cease-fire deal in 2013. That one didn’t happen, either.

Kerry told reporters at a joint news conference with Lavrov, “The United States is going the extra mile here because we believe Russia and my colleague have the capability to press the Assad regime to stop this conflict and come to the table and make peace.

“Out of complexity in Syria, there is emerging a simple choice between war and peace,” he said.

The plan is for the U.S. and Russia to establish a joint operation center to coordinate military efforts against the Da’esh (ISIS) and Al Qaeda-linked Jabhat al-Nusra terrorist organizations.

Russia informed President Bashar al-Assad about the agreement and, according to Lavrov, the regime agreed to comply. Although the terms were documented and agreed to by both sides, they would not be made public, he told reporters, according to the UK-based newspaper, The Telegraph.

The deal rides on Russia’s ability and willingness to stop attacks by the Assad regime and its allies, and the same cooperation by the United States to halt attacks by “moderate” opposition forces who unite with Al Nusra and other radical Islamists when it suits their needs.

Other forces that have become involved in the Syrian conflict include Iran and Hezbollah, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Turkey, and the Kurds.

It’s a coin toss whether anyone will actually pay more than five minutes’ attention to the terms of the deal in Damascus this time — and some bookie is probably making good money on the estimates of how long the quiet will last, or if it will even be quiet at all by Monday night.

Hana Levi Julian

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/breaking-news/latest-us-russian-ceasefire-deal-for-syria-to-start-monday-with-eid-al-fitr/2016/09/11/

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