A couple of days ago, I noted that there were rumors of a cease fire in Syria’s Aleppo that would allow rebel fighters, their families, and other civilians opposed to the Assad regime to leave the city for a destination of their choice.
Aided by Iran, Hezbollah, and of course Russia, President Bashar al-Assad’s forces have recaptured substantially all of the city, the country’s second largest population center. What’s actually transpiring there depends on who you ask. According to Russia, the city is being liberated from the iron grip of nefarious “bandits.” Similarly, pro-Russia “alt.” news sites paint a picture of a country that’s “returning to normal.”
In stark contrast, the rebels and the American media claim that Assad’s forces are effectively carrying out genocide in the city, executing not only rebel fighters, but women and children as well. Here are some excerpts from a WSJ piece out Tuesday:
[News of a cease fire] deal came amid reports of summary executions of people in Aleppo’s opposition-held areas and fears of massacres of those remaining by regime forces and allied foreign Shiite Muslim militias. Local activist groups reported that at least 80 people had been killed Monday, many shot by firing squad while others were burned to death.
Activist group Aleppo24, which has a network of contacts in the city, said regime forces had burned more than 15 women and children alive. Another group, the Halab News Network, alleged that regime forces were killing all wounded patients left in field hospitals.
The U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights said it had received reports of Syria’s pro-government forces killing at least 82 civilians as the troops entered the last remaining strongholds of the rebels in eastern Aleppo.
“We have also been informed that pro-government forces have been entering civilian homes and killing those individuals found inside, including women and children,” spokesman Rupert Colville said in Geneva.
Russia of course claims civilians are not targeted.
“We came to terms with the Russians. The first civilians will be leaving at 7pm and after a while the militants will be able to leave,” one rebel commander said Tuesday.
“One man inside Aleppo said he saw people holding blood-transfusion bags walking the streets, perhaps evacuated from a clinic that had shut down,” FT reported, earlier today.
According to Reuters, Russia has confirmed the cease fire and with it, a major battlefield victory for the Assad regime which is now back in control of most of “useful Syria”:
“My latest information is that they indeed have an arrangement achieved on the ground that the fighters are going to leave the city,” Russian U.N. Ambassador Vitaly Churkin told reporters. It could happen “within hours maybe”, he said.
A surrender or withdrawal of the rebels from Aleppo would mean the end of the rebellion in the city, Syria’s largest until the outbreak of war after mass protests in 2011.
By finally dousing the last embers of resistance burning in Aleppo, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s military coalition of the army, Russian air power and Iran-backed militias will have delivered him his biggest battlefield victory of the war.
While Russia swears the rebels have kept civilians as “human shields,” the UN along with Britain and France, have accused the regime of “the wanton slaughter of men, women and children” and now warn that the same scene could well play out in Douma, Raqqa, and Idlib. France has cautioned Russia that it risks being “complicit in acts of vengeance and terror”.
Readers are of course free to believe as they please but I would note that by the time this “nightmarish” fight drew to a close this month, the rebels were in absolutely no position to challenge the combined forces of Iran, Hezbollah, and Shiite militias called over from Iraq, especially considering these fighters were backed by the Russian air force. The US, Turkey, and the Gulf monarchies may well have helped to start this insurgency, but Russia has certainly done one helluva job at finishing it.
There’s every reason to be skeptical of Washington’s involvement in Mid-East conflicts given America’s abysmal track record in the region which includes disastrous forays into Iraq and Libya. Still, it’s difficult to ignore the reports coming out of Syria or otherwise write the rebels’ pleas for mercy off as boldface lies designed solely to unfairly disparage a benevolent Russia whose forces are just trying to help liberate a country that’s fallen into the hands of murderous terrorists – especially when the actual murderous terrorists were allowed to recapture a UNESCO world heritage site just as the last vestiges of resistance were being routed in Aleppo. If you believe that line then I have some websites I can recommend.