Syria extends air campaign on Aleppo region: activists

Updated 22 December 2013
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Syria extends air campaign on Aleppo region: activists

BEIRUT: Syrian warplanes pounded northern Aleppo for a fifth consecutive day Thursday, unleashing their firepower against several rebel-held villages in the province, activists and a monitoring group said.
The latest attacks have killed at least 11 people in just two of the targeted villages, among them four women and two children, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
“After four days of helicopters dropping barrel bombs on Aleppo city, the regime changed the direction of its raids and struck the village of Tal Alam near Sfeira” southeast of Syria’s second city, the Aleppo Media Center said on Facebook.
Another activist network in the province, Shahba Press, reported air raids on Daret Ezza, Marea, Minbej and Anadan north of Aleppo city.
The villages targeted have been rebel-held for more than a year and have suffered frequent bombing.
But activists called Thursday’s raids an extension of a deadly five-day aerial campaign against the provincial capital itself.
The Observatory also reported the attacks, adding that the Aleppo area of Sheikh Najjar was hit with makeshift barrel bombs which are packed with TNT and are highly destructive.
The Britain-based group also updated its toll from warplane and barrel bomb attacks on Aleppo city to 161 people killed between Sunday and Thursday.
On Thursday alone, at least 11 others were killed in Minbej and Daret Ezza, said the Britain-based group.
Doctors Without Borders (MSF) had reported more than 189 killed by Wednesday evening from such attacks in Aleppo city alone.
Observatory director Rami Abdel Rahman said it would be difficult, “if not impossible,” for the regime’s military to advance on opposition areas of the country’s former commercial hub.
“But I think it is trying to make the population turn against the rebels, so that the people themselves expel the fighters,” he said.
One Syrian security source has denied that barrel bombs have been used against what the regime calls “terrorists,” but another said the military prefers such weapons over missiles because they are cheaper.
Aleppo has been locked in a stalemate for more than a year, since a massive rebel advance on the provincial capital in July 2012.
Parts of the city have remained squarely under regime control ever since, while others have been in opposition hands.
Fighting between rebels and forces loyal to President Bashar Assad, including paramilitaries and officers from Lebanon’s Hezbollah, also raged on the ground in Aleppo city, the Observatory said.
Syria’s war is estimated to have killed more than 126,000 people in 33 months, and forced millions more to flee their homes.


US accepts Assad staying in Syria — but will not give aid

Updated 12 min 7 sec ago
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US accepts Assad staying in Syria — but will not give aid

  • James Jeffrey said that Assad needed to compromise as he had not yet won the brutal seven-year civil war
  • Trump’s administration has acknowledged, if rarely so explicitly, that Assad is likely to stay

WASHINGTON: The US said Monday it was no longer seeking to topple Syrian President Bashar Assad but renewed warnings it would not fund reconstruction unless the regime is “fundamentally different.”

James Jeffrey, the US special representative in Syria, said that Assad needed to compromise as he had not yet won the brutal seven-year civil war, estimating that some 100,000 armed opposition fighters remained in Syria.

“We want to see a regime that is fundamentally different. It’s not regime change —  we’re not trying to get rid of Assad,” Jeffrey said at the Atlantic Council, a Washington think tank.

Estimating that Syria would need $300-400 billion to rebuild, Jeffrey warned that Western powers and international financial institutions would not commit funds without a change of course.

“There is a strong readiness on the part of Western nations not to ante up money for that disaster unless we have some kind of idea that the government is ready to compromise and thus not create yet another horror in the years ahead,” he said.

Former President Barack Obama had called for Assad to go, although he doubted the wisdom of a robust US intervention in the complex Syrian war. and kept a narrow military goal of defeating the Daesh extremist group.

President Donald Trump’s administration has acknowledged, if rarely so explicitly, that Assad is likely to stay.

But Secretary of State Mike Pompeo warned in October that the US would not provide “one single dollar” for Syria’s reconstruction if Iran stays.

Jeffrey also called for the ouster of Iranian forces, whose presence is strongly opposed by neighboring Israel, although he said the US accepted that Tehran would maintain some diplomatic role in the country.

Jeffrey also said that the US wanted a Syria that does not wage chemical weapons attacks or torture its own citizens.

He acknowledged, however, that the US may not find an ally anytime soon in Syria, saying: “It doesn’t have to be a regime that we Americans would embrace as, say, qualifying to join the European Union if the European Union would take Middle Eastern countries.”