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The conflict in Syria rages on as the Battle of Aleppo enters its third week on August 2. Since March of 2011, when the first anti-government protests began in Syria, around 200,000 have been made refugees and around 20,000 people have been killed.
Aleppo, a commercial hub in Syria and the city with the largest population, is one of the most active combat locations in Syria. It is a key location since the winning of Aleppo for the rebels could mean the end of the Assad regime. BBC’s Jim Muir wrote, “The longer the situation remains unresolved, the stronger the rebels’ grip may become, as they pursue their goal of establishing a ‘liberated area’ in Aleppo and neighboring Idlib province to use as a springboard against the regime’s last stronghold, Damascus.”
Many rebels have taken hold of several districts within the city of Aleppo and Assad has sent tanks, helicopter gunships, and war planes to attack it.
On August 2 the rebel Tawheed Brigade left Tal Rifaat to give aid to the rebels in Aleppo. Also early in the morning of August 2 the rebels attacked Menagh army base with a stolen tank. Menagh is from where Assad has been launching several of his artillery and air strike attacks on Aleppo. The rebels pulled out after a short time with one rebel fighter claiming, “We hit the airport using a tank that we captured from the Assad army. We attacked the airport a few times but we have decided to retreat at this time.” However, several reports claim that the retreat may have been due to the war planes that attacked the rebels.
In Aleppo, rebels put a video online that showed them executing several prisoners; the act is being called a war crime by several organizations. The rebels also claim to have taken three police stations within the city in the last week. Also last month, Assad’s forces managed to drive most of the rebels out of Damascus and began to push an offensive on Aleppo.
Tensions between the two sides have also risen from the government activity in Damascus and the rebel activity in Aleppo. Assad, who has been in power since the death of his father in 2001, launched two attacks in Damascus on Thursday in which soldiers went door to door asking people to show their papers. The London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) claimed “the bodies of 43 people were recovered. Some of them had been summarily executed.”
In the last month Assad’s top four advisers, including his own brother-in-law, were killed in a bombing. Since then, Assad has been in hiding and has only issued pre-recorded statements.
On Wednesday, August 1 the mobile phone connections were cut for the city of Aleppo leading many to believe that the government would launch an attack. In fact, on Thursday the government forces attacked the Salaheddine district in Aleppo, although most were repelled by the rebels.
The problems worsen even further for the citizens of Aleppo since the city is beginning to run out of food. The World Food Program issued a statement claiming, “The humanitarian situation is deteriorating in Aleppo and food needs are growing rapidly.”
The world’s response
Many believe that outside governments should be helping the rebels although since Russia and China are in favor of keeping Assad in power, there has been little consensus. The Security Council has created three separate resolutions that have been vetoed by Russia and China as too extreme because it would cause a regime change led by an outside power, violating sovereignty.
The UN General Assembly will be voting on a resolution written by Saudi Arabia shortly that would support the Syrian rebels.
President Obama called Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Monday, July 30 to “coordinate efforts to accelerate a political transition in Syria.” Although Obama will not send direct military assistance, he does seem to want to support the rebels. The Treasury Department has recently decided that it will give a license to the Syrian Support Group that will aid the rebels financially.
Jordan, a bordering country to Syria, has been helping Syrian refugees enter their country. However, in recent days Syrian soldiers shot at Jordanian troops that were helping the refugees to cross the border.
On August 2, the UN-Arab League joint special peace envoy to Syria, Kofi Annan, has announced that he will not renew his contract when it ends in August, effectively quitting his job. He claims that the Syrian people “desperately need action” but he believes that the UN Security Council is “finger pointing and name calling.”
Annan is the author of the six point peace plan that was introduced a few months ago. It called for an end to all military conflict, peaceful political negotiations, and more freedom of expression for the Syrian people. Unfortunately, neither the rebels nor the Syrian government upheld all sides of the plan and the situation quickly deteriorated.
Annan has blamed both sides in the Syrian conflict for the lack of peace but has also said that the problems were “compounded by the disunity of the international community.” He went on to state, “Syria can still be saved from the worst calamity – if the international community can show the courage and leadership necessary to compromise on their partial interests for the sake of the Syrian people – for the men, women, and children who have already suffered far too much.”
Currently it is unknown who will fill Annan’s position at the end of August, but most assuredly few are willing to take it.