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Fighting in Aleppo further buries hopes for Syria truce

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Syrian women walking amid destroyed buildings in the Assad-held Jouret al-Shiah neighborhood of the central Syrian city of Homs on Sept. 19, 2016. (AFP Photo) Syrian women walking amid destroyed buildings in the Assad-held Jouret al-Shiah neighborhood of the central Syrian city of Homs on Sept. 19, 2016. (AFP Photo)

Assad forces have intensified their assault on the troubled city of Aleppo, leaving at least 13 people dead while the U.S. insists that efforts to salvage the truce are "not dead"

After the Assad regime forces and opposition groups started to clash again on major frontlines near Aleppo and Hama, a dozen people including four medical workers were reportedly killed by the intense air raids. Despite the brutal atmosphere, the U.S. still insists that efforts to salvage the truce were "not dead."

Amid Washington poisoned efforts to revive a failed ceasefire, intense air raids shook Syria's Aleppo and northern Hama district on Wednesday. The Bashar al-Assad regime forces and opposition groups battled each other on major frontlines near Aleppo and Hama, and air strikes reportedly killed a dozen people including four medical workers.

An air raid carried out Tuesday night by Syrian or Russian warplanes killed four medical workers and at least nine opposition fighters near Aleppo, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group said on Wednesday. The raid hit the town of Khan Touman southwest of Aleppo city, an area controlled by opposition groups.

The fighting was focused in areas that control access to Aleppo city, where the opposition-held east has been encircled by Assad's forces, aided by Russian air power and Iran-backed militias, for all but a few weeks since July.

The renewed battles demonstrated the thin prospects for reviving a truce that collapsed into fresh fighting and bombardments on Monday. The U.N. Security Council held a high-level meeting on Syria later on Wednesday. US Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov took part in the tense meeting. Kerry stated that Russia must ground Syria air force.

The deal, probably the final hope of reaching a settlement on Syria before the administration of President Barack Obama leaves office, is following the path of all previous peace efforts in Syria: still being touted by diplomats long after the warring parties appeared to have abandoned it.

The U.S. President Barack Obama insisted diplomacy is the only way to end the brutal five-year conflict in Syria Tuesday, as a ceasefire brokered by Washington and Moscow lay in tatters. "There is no ultimate military victory to be won, we are going to have to pursue the hard work of the diplomacy that aims to stop the violence and deliver aid to those in need," Obama told the United Nations. His comments came hours after the Assad regime declared the ceasefire over and 18 U.N. aid trucks were destroyed as they tried to bring relief to war-ravaged citizens near Aleppo.

The truce brokered by the United States and Russia took effect on Sept. 12 as part of a deal meant to facilitate aid access to besieged areas. Foreign ministers of 20 countries including the United States and Russia met to discuss it on Tuesday and gave the agreement their support. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said after the meeting: "The ceasefire is not dead".

In the pact, the details of which remain secret, Washington and Moscow, which back opposing sides in the war between President Bashar al-Assad's regime and opposition groups, agreed to jointly target DAESH that are their common enemy.

But such unprecedented cooperation, at a time when trust between the Cold War-era foes is at its lowest for decades, was always a risky gamble. Kerry agreed the deal despite skepticism among other senior U.S. administration figures, and has acknowledged that it is fragile and uncertain.

Aleppo, Syria's biggest city before the war, has been a focal point of the war this year as Assad and his allies have sought to encircle the opposition-held east and cut opposition supply lines to Turkey. Having blockaded eastern Aleppo, the Assad regime aim to clear opposition fighters from areas to the south and west, to take back territory including the main Damascus-Aleppo highway. Shiite militia from Iraq, Lebanon and Iran play a big role fighting on the Assad's side. But opposition groups still have a strong presence in the area which abuts the opposition stronghold of Idlib province.

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