After four years of conflict, authorities said that only three residential blocks remained in the hands of the city’s terrorist groups.
— Lizzie Phelan (@LizziePhelan) December 12, 2016
While an official statement on the situation is yet to emerge from Damascus, a source close to Syrian Army headquarters told RIA Novosti that the army is on the brink of liberating the city.
The whole area retaken in and around Aleppo is some 18 000 square kilometers, making it a larger area than the whole countries of Qatar or Lebanon.
Earlier on Monday, the Russian Defense Ministry announced that over 13 000 civilians had been rescued from militant-held parts of eastern Aleppo with the help of the Russian Center for Reconciliation in the past 24 hours.
But on the French Radio Station, France Culture, the correspondent in Aleppo interviewed a French-speaker on Monday who sees his house for the first time in 5 years. The Syrian is sad to see his abode in very bad shape, but no space is given for any description as to how it may have occured.
The whole segment was only directed against president Assad’s policies, giving no context to understand the damage that regime change has wrought on the country. The introduction rather mentioned the “danger to the world heritage” because of the actions of the regime in Aleppo and Palmyra, a classical example of “fake news”, prompting some angry listeners to question the influence of Qatari money in France.
People of Aleppo have meanwhile poured onto the streets to celebrate Syrian army’s victory over Al-Qaeda and imminent end of the battle for their city. Huge amounts of foreign ammunition, food and medicines were found in the quarters the Takfiris retreated from, a blogger Moon of Alabama reported.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon issued a strong statement however expressing his “grave concern” about “atrocities” supposedly perpetrated on civilians, but could give no examples of any such atrocities from the unverified reports.
“The Secretary-General is alarmed over reports of atrocities against a large number of civilians, including women and children, in recent hours in Aleppo. While stressing that the United Nations is not able to independently verify these reports, the Secretary-General is conveying his grave concern to the relevant parties. He has instructed his Special Envoy for Syria to follow up urgently with the parties concerned.
“The United Nations underlines the obligation of all parties on the ground to protect civilians and abide by international humanitarian and human rights law. This is particularly the responsibility of the Syrian Government and its allies.”
The strange statement is all the more unusual as Ban Ki-moon himself admits the claims of “atrocities against a large number of civilians, including women and children” are entirely unverified.
His aide Jan Egeland has shown no such restraint. Whereas Ban Ki-moon admits the reports of atrocities are unverified, Egeland treats them as facts.
But Moscow has not minced words. Talks with the United States on Syria are at a “dead end”, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said in an appeal directly to the international community to stop Washington’s meddling in Syria.
Lavrov told Reuters on Monday he believed that Islamic State’s seizure of Palmyra might have been engineered by the US-led coalition to divert attention from Aleppo.
The ancient, UNESCO-recognized Palmyra had suffered for eight months under Daesh control, during which countless examples of priceless antiquities were deliberately destroyed by the terrorists.
“That leads us to a thought – and I am sincerely hoping I am wrong, that this is all orchestrated, coordinated to give a break to those bandits that are in eastern Aleppo,” he said. Lavrov’s job does not depend on donations to the Clinton Foundation, which might explain his forthright remarks.
Unconfirmed reports say that the Syrian army was caught off-guard by the Daesh attack in Palmyra because of communications interference by foreign intelligence services.
“There are unconfirmed reports that the VHF (Very High Frequency radio spectrum) communications that would have allowed the Syrian army to detect the movement was jammed. One unconfirmed report was that the US air force was jamming the frequency waves between Raqqa and Palmyra,” Rick Sterling, an investigative journalist and member of the Syria Solidarity Movement, told Radio Sputnik.
It does provide an explanation of how the massive build-up in Palmyra of foreign fighters went undetected by the Syrian armed forces.
Commenting on the situation in Aleppo, the Director of the University of Oklahoma’s Middle East Studies Center, Joshua Landis, told RT that recapturing Aleppo from the terrorists was “not the end of the war, but a very important turning point”.
“Aleppo, of course, is the second-largest city in Syria, it’s the last major city that the rebels have a real toehold in. This is comparable, in a sense, to what’s going on in Iraq, where Mosul is under attack, the second largest city of Iraq, and the government forces are pushing out rebels who have occupied that city,” Landis said.
A priority has been set to move west towards the al-Qaeda occupied Idleb instead of the mostly ISIS occupied east-Syria, as a two front war in the west and east would be too risky and require additional forces.