The Brutal Battle for Aleppo
"[Breaching the Syrian government siege on opposition neighbourhoods of Aleppo is] miraculous. Because our fighters are not only facing the Syrian regime but they are also facing the militias, Hezbollah, Iranian militias and Russia."
"And the reason we managed to do that is simply because we, the revolutionary forces, decided to be united and act as united."
Anas al-Abdah, leader of Syrian opposition group
"The consequences of the international community’s failure to protect Syrians from systematic and repeated violations of both human rights and humanitarian law have been devastating. Yet, one in particular stands out: the erosion of the long-established principle that neither militaries nor armed groups can target medical workers and the health care system for attacks."
"Since 2011, the Syrian government has systematically violated this principle and is using attacks on medical workers and facilities as a weapon of war. It began when the government interfered with and compromised health care services by arresting injured protesters in emergency rooms, but quickly escalated into bombing hospitals in opposition-held areas and detaining, torturing, and executing doctors who were adhering to medical ethics by treating the wounded regardless of their political beliefs. The doctors who have risked their lives to remain in Syria and treat the injured have been decimated by Bashar al-Assad’s forces, which consider it a crime punishable by death to provide medical treatment to 'the other side'."
"As we approach the fifth year of the conflict, at least 610 medical personnel have been killed, and there have been 233 deliberate or indiscriminate attacks on 183 medical facilities. The Syrian government is responsible for 88 percent of the recorded hospital attacks and 97 percent of medical personnel killings, with 139 deaths directly attributed to torture or execution."
Aleppo's infrastructure has been partially destroyed, leaving two million people still resident in both the opposition-held and regime-controlled portions of Syria's once-largest city without running water. Syrian activists warn that government warplanes bombing opposition portions of Aleppo have destroyed electricity and water networks. The agony suffered by the city's residents through constant bombardments has been exacerbated by the lack of potable water and an absence of power.
Hezbollah units and Shiite miltias from Iran and Iraq have deployed greater numbers of their fighters to Aleppo front lines in the wake of the regime's most recent losses to the rebel groups. The rebels succeeded in breaching the regime-imposed siege and in the process managed as well to close off a key government route to the city. Desperately-needed food and medical supplies were finally brought into rebel-controlled Aleppo.
The Shiite reinforcements emerging from four distinct groups portrayed by Iranian media and militia officers as seasoned "elite" fighters are meant to support Bashar Assad's fighting forces at a time of intensified fighting contests to control the city. The rebel opening of a corridor in the south had all the impact of a major military breakthrough.
But it also inspired an intensive airstrike campaign by Russian and Syrian jets targeting the insurgents who responded by a massive defence in protection of their newly opened corridor and the new ground they managed to gain. The commercial heart of the country is no longer beating as it once did. But it is evident that a demoralizing blow had been dealt by the rebel groups to the confidence of the regime since the Russian entry into the conflict.
The impact of Russian air strikes augmenting and supporting Syrian strikes upon a unified rebel determination which is not equally armed, yet fighting against not only the military dictatorship's resources, but those of the Lebanese Hezbollah, Iranian militias and those sourced in Iraq, and yet still not managing to retain the upper hand in the conflict is indeed "miraculous".
The mobilization of the Hezbollah Brigades, the Iranian-supported Shia militias, are a response to the grim reality of the unified rebels' success in maintaining and gaining ground against great odds. Thousands of additional fighters have been deployed in government-held Aleppo neighbourhoods. On the rebel side, it is estimated that between 5,000 to 8,000 fighters are confronting the regime and its defenders.
The Al-Watan newspaper supporting the Syrian regime wrote of the "necessary" military reinforcements brought in to recover those areas the regime was pressed to withdraw from after a "redeployment in the area" -- read: retreat. Whoops, guess it's time to bomb a few more hospitals to ventilate rage.