Negotiations continue between rebels and the Syrian Army, but the bombardment of Ghouta won’t stop any time soon

Exclusive: Ghouta will fall. That is the message. And when it falls, Idlib must surely be next. And then the Syrians must decide how to break the US-Kurdish hold on Raqqa

Syria continues to mass its armed forces around the east Ghouta enclave of Damascus, including army units commanded by President Bashar al-Assad’s brother Maher and by Colonel Soheil Hassan, the “Tiger” whose military victories across the country have made him legendary among Assad’s supporters.

Instead of moving by night – the traditional tactic adopted by the army in the war – vast quantities of Syrian armour have been humming along the highways to the capital in broad daylight from Aleppo and Homs in the north, from Deraa in the south, and from the countryside of Damascus itself. The Syrian authorities want them to be seen, to show the Islamist rebels of Ghouta know how their battle will end.

Despite Russia’s veto at the UN on Thursday night, however, negotiations have continued between three rebel groups and the Syrian army – under the direct mediation of the Russians – to establish “humanitarian corridors” and “escape routes” for the tens of thousands of civilians trapped inside Ghouta, the vast area of suburban slums and farmland held by Islamist and other rebel groups since 2013. Almost identical talks took place between Islamists and the government over eastern Aleppo before its fall in December 2016. Bloodshed and negotiations have long been a feature of the Syrian war.

But despite all the West’s rhetoric – and the UN’s constant refrain that the civilians of eastern Ghouta are experiencing “hell on earth” – the massive Syrian and Russian bombardment is going to continue. The Islamist Nurah faction, the “child” of al-Qaeda of 9/11 infamy, appears to be more reluctant to surrender to the Syrians – even if allowed to leave with its light weapons – than Saudi Arabia’s favourite militia, the Jaish al-Islam, or Qatar’s proxy “Rahman Legion”. There are even suggestions that the Saudi and Qatari supported factions are arguing with each other – even now, inside Ghouta – about the Gulf dispute between the Saudis and Qataris.

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  1. As I keep saying: You must read Robert Fisk’s articles in full! Klick on the ‘more’ button! Robert Fisk is one of the few neutral observers with complete knowledge of the region !

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