Syrian Rebels Vow To Resist Army Advances In Aleppo – Huffington Post
Gains by the Syrian army and its allies since last week have brought whole districts back under government control and led to a human exodus as thousands have fled their pulverized neighborhoods near the rapidly shifting front lines.
With the rebels now reduced to an area just kilometers across, France has called a meeting of the United Nations Security Council for later on Wednesday to discuss the city’s burgeoning humanitarian crisis.
The army and its allies said they had taken the Sheikh Saeed district in the south of the city on Wednesday. Rebels denied this, saying the government’s advance had been repelled. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based war monitor, said the insurgents retained a third of Sheikh Saeed.
The Observatory reported that the government was detaining and questioning hundreds of those fleeing rebel-held areas for the comparative safety of state-controlled districts.
A Syrian military source denied this, saying there had been no arrests, but adding that displaced people whose identities were not known were being moved into “specific places” in the areas of Aleppo where fleeing civilians were found.
In their attack on Wednesday, government forces stepped up the use of air strikes, including in Aleppo’s Old City, according to a rebel official. Rescue workers in eastern Aleppo said 45 people were killed in the latest bombardment.
After a year of gradual advances for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, backed by Russia, Iran and Shi’ite militias, the taking of Aleppo would represent a huge stride forwards in his efforts to end the rebellion after nearly six years of conflict.
For the mostly Sunni Muslim rebel groups, the fall of Aleppo would deprive them of their last big foothold in a major city.
Russia, Assad’s most powerful international ally whose air force has pounded rebels for more than a year, said it hoped the Aleppo situation could be resolved by the end of the year. Rebels in the city have vowed no surrender.
While rebel lines collapsed unexpectedly in parts of eastern Aleppo at the weekend, sources on the government side say the next phase could be more difficult as they try to take more densely populated areas of the city.
Zakaria Malahifji, head of the political office of the Aleppo-based Fastaqim rebel group, told Reuters that rebel groups in the city had rejected any withdrawal.
“This is the decision of the factions. I spoke to them about everything that was tabled and they said they would not withdraw, and other things may also happen,” he said, without giving further details as he spoke from Turkey.
With tens of thousands of people remaining in rebel-held areas of Aleppo, many people say they would rather risk death than surrender to a government they have been trying to overthrow since protests against Assad began in 2011.
Thousands of people who have fled the fighting have gone into the Kurdish-controlled Sheikh Maqsoud district rather than hand themselves over to a government which U.N. investigators have accused of secretly detaining activists and civilians.