[Marxism] Syrian rebels cut government’s supply routes in Aleppo
lnp3 at panix.com
Mon Aug 8 06:13:42 MDT 2016
FT, August 8 2016
Syrian rebels cut government’s supply routes in Aleppo
Erika Solomon in Beirut
Syrian civil defence volunteers, known as the White Helmets, gather in a
street in the northern city of Aleppo on August 6, 2016, in celebrations
after rebels said they have broken a three-week government siege on
Syria's second city Rebel groups successfully broke the siege by opening
a new route into the city from the southwest, opposition officials said.
Opposition fighters, Islamists and jihadists have waged fierce assaults
since July 31 to end the siege by government forces of some 250,000
people in Aleppo's eastern districts. Rebel and regime forces have
fought for control of the provincial capital since mid-2012,
transforming the former economic powerhouse into a divided, bombed-out city.
After breaking a weeks-long siege on the rebel-held half of Aleppo,
opposition forces advancing through Syria’s largest city have turned the
tables on regime forces — cutting the main supply routes to
government-controlled districts that are home to more than 1m people.
Rockets rained down on both sides of the city — seen a key strategic
prize in Syria’s five-year war — with President Bashar al-Assad’s forces
backed by Russian air strikes and rebels launching artillery rounds into
the regime-held south-western districts of Hamdaniya.
As the fighting rages there are concerns that Aleppo’s humanitarian
disaster risks spreading to both sides of the northern city, which is
split between the opposition forces and regime troops. An estimated
300,000 residents in rebel-held areas have been trapped for weeks by a
government’s siege, and widely anticipated relief has been intermittent
despite the opposition’s gains.
Rebels aligned with jihadi forces launched a surprisingly quick
offensive last week that was initially described as their last stand in
the city — the opposition’s only major urban stronghold. Their success
in breaking the government’s siege has revived opposition hopes that the
battle could instead turn into one of the biggest military challenges to
Mr Assad in years.
For months, control of Aleppo has been seen as an opportunity to gain
leverage ahead of future peace talks. A US-Russian brokered peace
framework was expected to be agreed this month, along with a fresh round
of negotiations in Geneva. But both plans have been thrown into doubt by
the Aleppo battle.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a UK-based monitoring group,
said on Monday that the government had managed to bring in dozens of
truckloads of food and fresh troops to bolster its forces.
But in western Aleppo, prices shot up at the weekend after government
forces lost ground in the south-west of the city. Residents took to
social media to complain about the sudden rise in prices, accusing some
vendors of hiding food stuffs to sell later.
“Our friends in Aleppo say that in their visits to the markets, food
stuffs are ‘disappearing’ in the blink of an eye,” wrote the Facebook
group, ‘Corruption in the Time of Reform’, which is pro-government but
criticises local corruption. “Vegetables are slowly disappearing with
every position the army loses . . . They (the shopkeepers) are a
principle partner in the war on the people of Aleppo.”
In the rebel-held east, pick-up trucks laden with fresh fruit and
vegetables came into the area for the first time in weeks, but aid
workers say that the shelling is so fierce, they still have no reliable
route into the area.
“Only a very small amount (of goods) have entered to raise spirits, not
to fill empty stomachs,” said Osama Abu al-Ezz, a doctor in Aleppo. “The
Russian air planes are monitoring every movement in the liberated areas
and are targeting them.”
Many observers worry that instead of a major victory for either side,
Aleppo could sink into a brutal battle of attrition.
Russia, which intervened on Mr Assad’s behalf in September, could
escalate air strikes, but Syrian regime forces have been unable to hold
Two activists and a rebel fighter said that in the past few weeks,
foreign backers have sent a huge influx of cash and weapons over the
Turkish border, including new artillery rockets.
But despite those weapons, it is unclear whether the rebels can
effectively use the territory they have captured as they are under
constant air bombardment.
The fighting may also spread further across the largely rebel-held north.
On Saturday night, incendiary bombs hit neighbouring Idlib province,
lighting up the night sky with explosions that activists blamed on
Rebels insist they will treat those living on the government-held
western districts fairly.
“We will be very keen to protect the lives of every Syrian, regardless
of their views or background,” rebels said in a joint statement.
But some on the government side may be wary of these claims due to the
leading role of jihadi groups like Jabhat Fatah al-Sham, a former
al-Qaeda affiliate that has openly called for attacking the country’s
minority Alawite sect.
Mr Assad and much of the ruling and military elite are Alawite.
Fatah al-Sham — formerly known as Jabhat al-Nusra — named one of their
first raids into western Aleppo last week after an Islamist who
massacred dozens of Alawite soldiers in 1979.
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