Syrian army sees Aleppo encircled soon; rebels hope for more weapons

 Reuters International

By Tom Perry, Lisa Barrington and Tulay Karadeniz

BEIRUT/ANKARA (Reuters) – A Syrian army source said the city of Aleppo would soon be encircled by government forces as rebels pounded by Russian air strikes expressed hope that the failure of Geneva peace talks would encourage their foreign backers to send better weapons.

Turkey, a major sponsor of the insurgency against President Bashar al-Assad, said there was no point to peace talks while Russia carried out attacks in Syria. Moscow confirmed a Russian military trainer was killed in Syria this week, but denied that Russian servicemen were fighting on the ground.

The United Nations on Wednesday suspended the first peace talks in two years, halting an effort that seemed doomed from the start as the war raged unabated on the ground and government forces severed a major rebel supply route into strategically-important Aleppo, Syria’s biggest city before the war began.

Turkey said on Thursday that tens of thousands of refugees from Aleppo were moving towards the border due to air strikes.

Four months of Russian air strikes have tipped the momentum Assad’s way after rebel advances earlier in 2015 that posed a growing threat to his control of crucial areas of western Syria.

With the help of Russian air power and allies including Lebanon’s Hezbollah and Iranian fighters on the ground, the overstretched Syrian army is regaining ground on key fronts in the west, where Syria’s most important cities are located.

But vast swathes of the country are in the hands of armed rebels, including a mosaic of groups in the west, Islamic State in the east, and Kurdish militia in the north.

The refugee crisis created by the five-year-long war moved back into focus as donors convened in London on Thursday, with U.N. agencies seeking billions in aid to help the victims of a conflict that has forced millions from their homes.

U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said the first steps in peace talks were undermined by increased aerial bombing. U.N. envoy Staffan de Mistura announced a three-week pause.

“I think the special envoy decided to suspend the talks because the organisation did not want to be associated with the Russian escalation in Syria, which risks undermining the talks completely,” a U.N. official told Reuters.

Washington and Moscow’s support for opposite sides in the five-year-old war, which has drawn in regional states, created millions of refugees and enabled the rise of Islamic State, means a local conflict has become a fraught global stand-off.

Moscow accuses Washington, which is backing opponents of Assad, of supporting terrorists, while the U.S. State Department said the air strikes around Aleppo focused mainly on Assad’s foes rather than the Islamic State militants Russia says it is trying to defeat.


Aleppo, 50 km (30 miles) south of the Turkish border, is divided into areas of government and opposition control. Since the start of Russia’s bombing campaign, the army and its allies have launched major offensives to the south of the city against rebels, and to the east against Islamic State.

The army source said operations to fully encircle Aleppo from the west would happen soon. The army and its allies on Wednesday broke through rebel lines to the northwest of the city, reaching two Shi’ite towns loyal to the government for the first time in 3-1/2 years.

If the government regains control of Aleppo, it would be a big blow to insurgents’ hopes of toppling Assad after a war that has divided Syria between western areas mostly still governed from Damascus and much of the rest of the country held by armed groups.

Residents thanked Assad, Iran and Hezbollah in celebratory scenes from the towns of Nubul and al-Zahraa broadcast by Hezbollah’s al-Manar TV. The powerful Kurdish YPG militia, which controls wide areas of northern Syria, meanwhile added to the pressure on insurgents, capturing two villages near Nubul and al-Zahraa, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported.

The Syrian Kurds have consistently denied opposition claims that they cooperate with Damascus.

Rebel commanders said they hoped the peace talks’ collapse would convince their foreign backers, states including Turkey and Saudi Arabia, that it was time to send them more powerful and advanced weapons, including anti-aircraft missiles.

Assad’s foreign opponents have been funnelling weapons to vetted rebel groups via both Turkey and Jordan.

One rebel leader said he expected “something new God willing” after the failure of the Geneva talks.

Another rebel commander said: “They are promising to continue the support. In what form, I don’t yet know … How it will crystallise, nobody knows … We need to wait.”

Both spoke on condition of anonymity citing the sensitivity of the issue.


While vetted “Free Syrian Army” rebels have received weapons including U.S.-made guided anti-tank missiles, their calls for anti-aircraft missiles have gone unanswered mostly because of fears they could end up in the hands of powerful jihadist groups such as the Nusra Front that are also fighting Assad.

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said talks were pointless while Assad’s forces and Russia pressed their attacks, while Saudi Arabia, another major sponsor of the rebels, said the Syrian government had refused to cooperate with the U.N. envoy.

“Russia continues to kill people in Syria. Could there be such a peace gathering? Could there be such peace talks?” Erdogan said in a speech in Peru, in comments published on the presidency website.

“In an environment where children are still being killed, such attempts do not have any function apart from making things easier for the tyrant,” he said.

Ban said: “It is deeply disturbing that the initial steps of the talks have been undermined by the continuous lack of sufficient humanitarian access, and by a sudden increase of aerial bombing and military activities within Syria.”

He said: “The coming days should be used to get back to the table, not to secure more gains on the battlefield.”

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov had agreed on the need to discuss how to implement a ceasefire in Syria during a call on Thursday.

A Russian defence ministry spokesman was cited as saying the Russian military trainer was killed in the shelling of a Syrian army training centre in Homs province.

The defence ministry said the mortar attack took place on Feb. 1. “They (Russian military servicemen) are not taking part in ground operations,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters. “We are talking about advisers. This is linked to teaching Syrian colleagues to operate equipment which is being delivered to Syria under existing contracts.”

(Editing by Peter Millership)


2 replies

  1. All the armed rebels will be punished severely as Allah has promised, and never mistake.

    International power should support the existing authority instead of the armed groups.If you do not follow God’s guidance, there is no permanent peace in Syria, Iraq, and Middle East for sure.

    Those who plot evils ( to topple the authority), theirs will be severe torment. And the plotting of such will perish. QS 35;10.

    Those who support the Armed rebels also will be punished.
    I urge strongly all ARMED REBELS obey God’s laws,and existing authority. God will bless you with a good live, but if you reject , God will punish you severely..

    All citizen have to obey the existence authority, even you do not like or against your faith you have a right to protest peacefully.

    Everyone must obey the existing authorities, because no authority exists without God’s permission, and the existing authorities have been put there by God.Whoever opposes the existing authority opposes what God has ordered .Roman 13:1-2).

    This golden rule is found too in Islam or Al Quran as following;

    O you who believe, obey Allah and obey the Messenger and those in authority among you.QS 4;59
    HADITS.Listen and obey your authority, though he struck your back and take your wealth force (Muslim ).

    ( The Existing State authority can be Sunni,Shia,Christian,Jews, Hindu,Atheist etc has to be obeyed. no matter what )

    The fruit of decades of hate teaching has been coming to the fruition now. Millions innocent people have been suffering, displacing and killed. Very sad,pity, heartbreaking and embarrassing. ENOUGH IS ENOUGH.

    Love in the seed of peace and happiness, but hatred is the seed of the darkness and violence.

    With love

    From my perspective of Syria, Iraq, Libya issue.
    The fruit of century hate teaching between extremist sunni and shia is coming to the fruition. If you do good deed will come to you and if you do evil deed will come against you. Millions innocent people have been suffering and killed. I am so sad, pity, and heartbreaking.Enough is enough.
    his horrific conflict will not end soon until all political and spiritual leaders of Saudi Arabia and Iran obey Human Right, and treat all people fairly regardless his belief, religion, race and race.

    The root of conflict are in Saudi Arabia and Iran, as long as both countries still keep hating and judging each other, do not accept and respect each other, there is no peace in Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Libya, other Islamic countries. this is religious conflict just like conflict between Catholic and protestant 700 year ago.

    This religious conflict can be solved with the word of wisdom that Allah provided in His Books;

    Let us stick with the word of wisdom of almighty Allah
    You may be sure that wisdom is good for your soul.Get wisdom and you have a bright future.Wisdom is offers you long life as well as wealth and honor. Wisdom can make your life pleasant and lead you safely through it.

    Allah already warned in His books. Bible and Al Quran;
    The Prophet Mohammad (PBUH), said: “None of you has faith until you love for your neighbour what you love for yourself.”
    These Golden Rules are found in Christianity, Judaism, and other religions.
    “Love your neighbor as yourself. If you keep on biting and devouring each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other.
    These are the messages we must give the next generation.(our children and grandchildren) at home and schools.

    God condemn and curse the armed groups or armed rebels.
    Political leaders and spiritual leader from both side, Sunni and Shiia should accept the different interpretation of Islam, and respect one another, just like our old brothers Catholic and Protestant can live in peace, harmony and productive way, because both accepted the different interpretation and respected one another.

    No one or cleric is allowed to punish any body for sins as we are all sinner
    Except someone who commit a criminal act, Government should bring them to justice.

    In reality now, majority sunni or shia government oppress the right of religious minority like in Middle East, and Iran. This is not the true Islamic teaching. God condemn injustice or discrimination on the basis of religion,belief,race and gender.

    The best solution is;
    1. Majority lead government, but majority should/must protect the right of minority.
    2. And liberty with justice for all people, citizen, equality, non discrimination on basis of race, religion, gender.
    3.Freedom of religion, expression.
    4. Secular-democratic system, and separation of state and mosque, Church.
    5. Love your neighbor as you love your self, or love all people, no incite hatred. Jihad, and martyr.


    Allah commanded people to protect the right of INDIVIDUAL OR MINORITY in Bible and Al Quran :

    And why should ye not fight in the cause of Allah and of those who, being weak,are ill-treated (and oppressed)? Men, women, and children, whose cry is: “QS. 4:75.
    These Golden Rules are found in Christianity, Judaism, and other religions.
    Speak up for people who can not speak for themselve. protect the rights of all who are helpless.speak for them and be a righteous judge.protect the right of the poor and needy. Proverb 31:8.


    Say: “O Allah, O Lord of the Kingdom, You give kingdom to whom You will, and take kingdom away from whom You will; and You bestow honor on whom You will, and bring disgrace to whom You will. In your hand lies the betterment (of everyone). You are surely powerful over everything. QS 3;(26.
    Everyone must obey state authorities, because no authority exists without God’s permission, and the existing authorities have been put there by God.Whoever opposes the existing authority opposes what God has ordered .Roman 13:1-2).
    Obey Allah, obey the Prophet, and obey those in authority among you. (Surat an-Nisa, 4:59).
    HADITS.Listen and obey your authority,though he struck your back and take your wealth force .( Muslim ).

    Those who plot evils ( to topple the authority), theirs will be severe torment. And the plotting of such will perish. QS 35;10.
    Those who support the Armed rebels also will be punished.
    I urge strongly all ARMED REBELS obey God’s laws,and existing authority. God will bless you with a good live, but if you reject , God will punish you severely..
    All citizen have to obey the existence authority, even you do not like or against your faith, BUT you have a right to protest peacefully. or you can go to other countries as Prophet moved to Ethopia.

    Those who do not obey Allah and Authority will be punished and their life will be disgraced in this world, punished severely on Hereafter. More than one million people will live in suffering because they do not obey Authority and Allah laws.
    As Allah said;
    If you do evil act and reject the God’s law, God will bring on you disaster, confusion, and trouble in everything you do, until you are quickly and completely destroyed, This disaster will be with you until you die. Deuteronomy 28;20.

    These are the core of Islamic teaching from Allah swt. If we obey these laws, we can live in peace, harmony, and prosperity. The world will be better place to live.
    We Muslims are the ones who need to change. It is a Muslim problem that needs a Muslim solution. More moderate Muslim must speak up to ask all extremist Clerics to stop killing innocent people, gay-lesbian, blasphemy, Shiia, and infidel.

    Stop inciting violence, JIHAD, stop accusing other beliefs are infidel, kafir, or enemy of Islam, stop feeding hatred toward other religions and other tradition in mosque. Instead of teaching hatred, teach them LOVE, TOLERANCE, FORGIVENESS, AND RESPECT DIFFERENT FAITHS.

    Peaceful Muslim around the world have to Speak up – for justice for all people regardless the race, religion,and gender.

    We should learn from Christian conflict between Catholic and Protestant in the past in Europe, 700 years ago,hundreds thousand people died and millions people left their home and escaped to other countries.

    Now both communities Catholic and Protestant can live in peace, harmony, prosperity and productive way because both sides accepted the differences and respect one another.

    Allah said.The believers are nothing else than brothers. So make reconciliation between your brothers, and fear Allâh, that you may receive mercy. O you who believe! Let not a group scoff at group,it may be that the latter are better than the former;QS49;10.

    This Golden rule is found in Christianity and Jews or in Bible

    Allah said:
    How wonderful it is, how pleasant, for God’s people to live together in harmony in this beautiful world we share together.Psalm 133;1.
    Love your neighbor as you love yourself, if you are really love Allah, but you hate your brothers, you are a big liar.

    So, love all people even they do not share your faith, like Christian, Jews,Budha, Hindu, atheist and Gay-Lesbian without discrimination at all.

    Love and justice for all, equality, tolerance and respect the different faith are the core of Islamic teaching from Allah swt.

    We must give freedom of religion, but where we disagree we must give love,compassion, and forgiveness, instead of judgment and condemnation.
    The best service to God is to promote cooperation and friendship between humans.
    And those who pray “Our Lord! Grant unto us wives and offspring who will be the comfort of our eyes and give us (the grace) to lead the righteous.”(74)

    Those are the ones who will be rewarded with the highest place in heaven because of their patient constancy; therein shall they be met with salutations and peace QS 25;(75).

    These are the messages should be taught to the next generation and grandchildren
    With all my love.

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