Humanitarian Work in Syria’s Aleppo to Continue Despite Fierce Fighting

A man rides a bicycle past burning tyres, which activists said are used to create smoke cover from warplanes, in Aleppo, Syria August 1, 2016

 

Mohammad Shakir, a spokesman for Islamic Relief said that recent events within Aleppo will make the work of the humanitarian organizations on the ground much more difficult.

 The ongoing fighting in the Syrian city of Aleppo complicates the work on the ground for the humanitarian organizations, nevertheless, they will continue to render all possible assistance, leading aid agencies’ spokespersons told Sputnik Thursday.

“Recent events within Aleppo will make the work of our teams on the ground much more difficult, but we are committed to continue supporting the victims of this tragedy,” Mohammad Shakir, a spokesman for Islamic Relief that has been supporting victims of the Syrian civil war since 2011, pledged.

On July 17, eastern districts of Aleppo came under siege by government forces, while fighting in other parts of the city, which is split between government and militant forces, also escalated recently amid the failure of the fragile ceasefire. According to various estimations, up to 300,000 civilians are trapped in Aleppo without access to necessities as the last delivery to reach those stranded was in June.

“We will continue to call for all parties to the conflict to respect international humanitarian law and that civilians have a right to self-protection and the protection of civilian infrastructure such as schools, hospitals and energy supplies,” Shakir stressed.

Giving people who want to leave Syria’s Aleppo the possibility of doing so through humanitarian corridors is important but it is not a substitute for on-the-ground humanitarian access, a spokeswoman for Mercy Corps, a global humanitarian aid agency, told Sputnik, commenting on the opening in late July of three humanitarian corridors for civilians and one for militants wishing to lay down arms by Russia and Syria.

“Any exit corridor must provide for the protection of those who wish to leave and ensure that they are able to freely go where they feel safe. A sustained ceasefire is needed as a first step to ensure their safety,” Christy Delafield added.

On Wednesday, EU foreign affairs chief Federica Mogherini and European Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Management Christos Stylianides supported the call for a humanitarian pause in the fighting for Aleppo, originally proposed by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). On Thursday, Jan Egeland, adviser to the UN’s special envoy to Syria, echoed these calls.Across Syria, Egeland said, the United Nations has only been able to meet about 40 percent of its aid delivery targets for June and July. The United Nations had hoped to reach 1.2 million people over the last two months.

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Over 370 Civilians Leave Militant-Controlled Areas of Aleppo Thanks to Russia

Syrian government forces secure a street as civilians walk on a street in the neighbourhood of Bani Zeid, on Aleppo's northern outskirts on July 29, 2016

 

Some 372 civilians including 76 children have left militant-controlled parts of Syria’s Aleppo through humanitarian corridors established by Moscow and Damascus, the Russian Center for Syrian reconciliation said. Nearly 100 militants have surrendered.

HMEIMIM      Some 372 civilians have left combat zone while 94 militants have surrendered since the start of the humanitarian operation in Syria’s Aleppo city, the commander of the Russian Center for Syrian reconciliation said Wednesday.

“At this point, 372 civilians, including 76 children, have left areas in Aleppo controlled by illegal armed groups while 94 militants have surrendered,” Lt. Gen. Sergei Chvarkov said.

According to Chvarkov, “the terrorists are attempting to prevent local residents from leaving the eastern part of Aleppo, threatening people with public executions.”

“We also receive reports indicating that the terrorists are training children and women to carry out suicide attacks,” the general added.

At the weekend, Moscow and Damascus commenced a large-scale humanitarian operation in Aleppo, opening escape routes for civilians and for militants wishing to lay down arms.Syria has been mired in civil war since 2011, with government forces loyal to President Bashar Assad fighting numerous opposition factions and extremist groups.

Aleppo is partially controlled by Jabhat Fatah al Sham (previously known as the al-Nusra Front), a terrorist group outlawed in Russia and other countries along with Daesh.

Nearly 50 Civilians Flee Aleppo Through Humanitarian Corridor

A general view shows a damaged street with sandbags used as barriers in Aleppo's Saif al-Dawla district (File)

 

Forty-eight women with children left the northern Syria’s Aleppo through Russia-negotiated humanitarian corridors, the city administration said on Wednesday.

LATAKIA       Fighting intensified in the contested city in recent days as militants mounted an offensive to break through government cordons. Some 250,000 civilians are feared to be trapped in the rebel-held eastern districts.An official with the Aleppo administration said people were fleeing through specially-designated corridors under heavy rebel fire. He said militants were using crude homemade weapons.

“Their accuracy is very low but in place of munitions they are using gas canisters filled with metal projectiles – nails, screws and bolts. Blasts can be heard every 5-10 minutes in different parts of Aleppo,” the official told journalists.

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said last week that Moscow and Damascus had launched a large-scale humanitarian operation in Aleppo, opening three escape routes for civilians and one for militants wishing to lay down arms.

Riyadh, Qatar and Turkey ‘Responsible for Downing Russian Helicopter in Syria’

Mi-8/17

 

A Russian Mi-8 helicopter was shot down in northwestern Syria on Monday killing all five Russian servicemen on board. In an interview with Sputnik, Dr. Marcus Papadopoulos, Editor of Politics First Magazine, put the blame on an alliance of terrorist groups called the Army of Conquest and its suppliers.

“I have no doubt about that. They have in their possession advanced weapons. We are talking about tanks, other armored vehicles, antitank weapons and antiaircraft missiles. The question is who has supplied them with these antiaircraft missiles?” he continued, adding that they could have apparently been supplied by Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Qatar.”

“Therefore, they are responsible for the downing of Russia’s Mi-8 helicopter, which was on a humanitarian mission in Syria, and for the death of all five Russian servicemen on board,” Marcus Papadopoulos continued.

Dr. Papadopoulos said that the Army of Conquest formed at the beginning of 2015 and after its formation it scored a major  battlefield victory when it captured Idlib city in the north of Syria and the rest of the province.

“Its political and financial backers are Saudi Arabia and Turkey and even though Ankara may now be reconsidering its policy of supporting Islamist terrorist groups, Turkey is the major supporter of the Army of Conquest responsible for numerous atrocities in Aleppo with their artillery bombardment of civilians,” he noted.

When asked that whether the downing of the Russian helicopter and the death of its crew will lead to the Army of Conquest losing its foreign sponsors or becoming officially recognized as a terrorist group, Dr. Papadopoulos said that “there is little chance of that happening because the Americans are supporting numerous other Islamist terrorist groups in Syria.”

He said that when in 2013 Daesh started to make its move in Syria there was no condemnation from the American government. It was only toward the end of that year when Daesh reemerged in Iraq and started posing a direct threat to the Western-backed Iraqi government that the Americans finally acted. Prior to that, they were only too happy to see Daesh advancing in Syria, capturing Syrian territories and committing atrocities.

“So there is no chance of the US listing the Army of Contest as a terrorist group,” Dr. Papadopoulos noted.

The downing of the Russian helicopter came shortly after Daesh posted a video where it called for waging a jihad against Russia.

When asked whether these two things could be connected somehow, Dr. Papadopoulos said that after Russia launched its antiterrorist campaign in Syria that actually turned the table in that conflict, it is now seen by Daesh, al-Nusra Front, the Army of  Conquest and others as one of their main enemies.Answering a question about the terrorists disseminating video accounts of their atrocities, Dr. Panadopoulos said that such photos and videos must be banned and that there should be censorship.

“I don’t really care what people in the West say about censorship being not in line with Western values of democracy and freedom of expression. There has to be a line drawn somewhere, that pictures of atrocities, beheadings, of bodies being dragged behind trucks should be prohibited on social media.”

“This would deprive the terrorists of a very important channel of recruitment. We have to fight them on the battlefield and we should also beat them on social media by banning their pages on Facebook and preventing them from uploading their appalling photos and videos,” Dr. Marcus Papadopoulos emphasized.

The downing of the Mi-8 has become the deadliest episode for the Russian military since it started bombing terrorist-held territories in Syria in September 2015.

Syrian Rebels Shot Down Mi-8 Helicopter to ‘Ruin Russia’s Aid Operation’

Rebel fighters and civilians inspect the wreckage of a Russian helicopter that had been shot down in the north of Syria's rebel-held Idlib province, Syria

 

The Russian Mi-8 helicopter could have been downed by those who wanted to “ruin a humanitarian operation” that Moscow and Damascus launched in Aleppo, Syria’s second largest city that has been devastated by the ongoing conflict, the newspaper Vzglyad reported.

The helicopter was en route to the Hmeymim air base following an aid mission in Aleppo when it was shot down, claiming the lives of five people on board. It was part of an ongoing campaign aimed at helping those trapped in the city. In the last 24 hours, 6,500 food packages, including flour, rice, canned meat and fish, were delivered to the area, the Russian Centre for reconciliation reported on Monday.

Some have questioned whether the Mi-8 helicopter was truly on a humanitarian mission since it was armed with high-tech weaponry, including launch pod containers and the Vitebsk electronic warfare system, but experts say that there is nothing surprising about this fact.Launch pod containers can be seen in several images supposedly taken at the Mi-8 crash site. The helicopter needed those for defense, not attack missions. An air force pilot, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told the news agency RBC that Mi-8 crews who are tasked with flying missions in conflict areas have always used these weapons.

“The fact that they carry out a humanitarian mission does not mean that they cannot defend themselves,” the source said.

Media reports also indicated that the downed helicopter was outfitted with the Russian-made Vitebsk electronic warfare system. The Vitebsk, developed by KRET, is meant to protect an aircraft or a rotorcraft from incoming missiles. The system, developers reported in September 2015, has passed all tests.

Yet the Vitebsk does not provide 100-percent protection, defense analyst Vasily Kashin told RBC. “Even if [the attackers] used a shoulder-carried missile launcher the Vitebsk has been designed to protect against, the missile could have reached its target,” he said.

The Russian military has not released information on what exactly was used to down the plane, but it is rumored to be exploring several options. These include a shoulder-carried missile launcher, a heavy machine gun, like the DShK 1938 or the KPVT, a grenade dispenser and a small-caliber anti-aircraft artillery, a source close to Russian Aerospace Forces’ command told Gazeta.ru.The Mi-8 tragedy took place in the neighboring province of Idlib that has been controlled by the Army of Conquest (Jaish al-Fatah), an umbrella organization that includes al-Nusra Front, Ahrar al-Sham and other Syrian rebels who are fighting to overthrow President Bashar al-Assad and establish a caliphate.

Russia launched its humanitarian operation in Aleppo on July 28. Three humanitarian corridors were opened in the city surrounded by Damascus-led forces, but held by radical groups. Moscow has pledged to deliver food and provide medical assistance to locals. Approximately 14 tons of humanitarian aid were delivered in the first three days of the operation.

Syrian Forces Repel al-Nusra in a Major Offensive Marred by Suicide Attacks

Syrian government forces' tanks drive in the village of Tal Jabin, north of the embattled city of Aleppo, as they advanced to break a three-year rebel siege of two government-held Shiite villages, Nubol and Zahraa, and take control of parts of the supply route on February 3, 2016

Syrian armed forces have managed to successfully repel a massive offensive by the besieged Nusra Front terrorists, which began early Sunday, capturing a warehouse of US-made weapons in proc

A fierce battle sparked today at the Southern and South-Western outskirts of Aleppo, some 223 miles (360 km) from Damascus, as several units of Jabhat Fath ash-Sham (former Al-Nusra Front) terrorist group tried to attack parts of city that are under government control. The offensive has been concentrated around Ramouseh district, on the South-Western part of the city.

“Fighters of the government forces repelled the militants and inflicted casualties upon them,” reports Al Manar TV channel.

If the militants succeeded in their attack, they would have breached the Syrian armed forces lines and likely would have established a supply route for militants trapped inside.

Conflict News reported two major suicide attacks that blew up massive columns of dust and smoke which could have been seen from a long distance.

In a desperate attempt to shield themselves from Russian airstrikes, militants resorted to burning tires to create a smokescreen over the city.

According to Russian Ministry of Defense, the Syrian armed forces managed to capture a weapons warehouse. The warehouse, which belonged to the Daesh and Nusra Front militants, contained a significant amount of US-made weapons. A video, released by Anna News, shows US-made ammunition, mortars and even TOW-2 anti-tank guided missile.

A Russian-Syrian humanitarian operation began on Thursday in Aleppo, with three humanitarian corridors opened in the city to allow the trapped civilians and surrendered militants to reach safety. Four more corridors are set to be established in a near future. According to Lieutenant-General Sergey Chvarkov, the head Russian reconciliation center in Syria, 169 civilians and 69 militants who chose to lay down arms have already fled the besieged city.

Russian Military: Four More Humanitarian Corridors Will be Opened in Aleppo

A Syrian family walks amid the rubble of destroyed buildings following a reported airstrike on April 28, 2016 in the Bustan al-Qasr rebel-held district of the northern Syrian city of Aleppo

Russian and Syrian military are going to establish four more humanitarian corridors in the besieged city of Aleppo, in addition to three existing corridors that already helped hundreds to reach safety.

According to Lieutenant-General Sergey Chvarkov, the head Russian reconciliation center in Syria, four more humanitarian corridors will be established in the Syrian city of Aleppo in the near future by joint efforts of Russian and Syrian military forces.

“In addition to the existing corridors, we are organizing four more humanitarian corridors,” the general said.

Chvarkov said that the existing three corridors have already helped 169 civilians and 69 militants who chose to lay down arms, to escape the besieged city.

“In the areas of those humanitarian corridors we have equipped stations with hot food and medical assistance. The Syrian authorities have prepared six centers of humanitarian assistance, which can accommodate and satisfy needs of more than 3,000 people,” he stressed.

 

Russia has also prepared 14 tons of humanitarian cargo for those fleeing the militants, with 2.5 tons of food and essentials already supplied, he added.

According to the civilians who managed to reach safety, living under militants is horrible.

“We left with our remaining children. May God punish the rebels. They did not allow us to leave, they deprived us of gas, water, electricity and bread. We were not allowed to leave. There were no medicines. They used to tell us you live with us or die with us,” one of escaped women said.

“We suffered and walked a lot, may God curse the rebels. They did not leave food or medicine and by the time we left it was not easy,” another resident added.

Russian-Syrian humanitarian operation in Aleppo began on Thursday when three humanitarian corridors were opened in the city.