US warns of warns of massacre in Aleppo

2012-07-27 07:34

Aleppo - Rebel forces were bracing on Friday for a decisive "mother of all" battles in Aleppo, as Washington warned the Syrian army could be preparing to carry out a massacre in the country's second city.

The Syrian army has been sending waves of reinforcements towards the northern city, and a security source said the offensive feared by the rebels could come as early as Friday.

"The special forces were deployed on Wednesday and Thursday on the edges of the city, and more troops have arrived to take part in a generalised counter-offensive on Friday or Saturday," the security source said of Aleppo.

Fighting raged in Aleppo on Thursday as clashes also shook parts of Damascus and other areas, with at least 121 people reported killed - 64 civilians, 32 regime troops and 25 rebels.

Rebels fighting to topple President Bashar Assad's regime also brought in reinforcements, with the source estimating that between 1 500 and 2 000 opposition fighters had arrived from outside Syria's most populous city to reinforce about 2 000 already fighting inside Aleppo.

"They are mainly present in the southern and eastern suburbs of the city, mainly Salaheddin and nearby districts," he said.

Regime assault

The airport was cut off from the city, as four of the five roads leading to it were under rebel control, he added.

Rebels also said a regime assault appeared imminent.

"The army's reinforcements have arrived in Aleppo," Colonel Abdel Jabbar al-Okaidi, a spokesperson for the rebel Free Syrian Army (FSA), said via Skype.

"We expect a major offensive at any time, specifically on areas across the southern belt, from east to west."

Okaidi added that some 100 tanks and a large number of military vehicles had arrived in the country's commercial hub.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported that regime forces pounded the Salaheddin neighbourhood in the south and Jazamati in the east.

US warning

On 20 July the rebels launched an all-out assault to overrun Aleppo, a move analysts say is aimed at establishing a bastion close to the rebel military headquarters in neighbouring Turkey.

The newspaper Al-Watan, which is close to the regime, led on Thursday with the headline "Aleppo, the mother of all battles", adding that "the army continues to chase terrorists in the outskirts of Damascus and the province".

Citing an Arab diplomatic source, it added: "Aleppo will be the last battle waged by the Syrian army to crush the terrorists and after that Syria will emerge from the crisis."

Washington warned that the Syrian regime may be preparing to carry out a massacre in the city.

"This is the concern, that we will see a massacre in Aleppo, and that's what the regime appears to be lining up for," said State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland.

"Our hearts are with the people of Aleppo. And again, this is another desperate attempt by a regime that is going down to try to maintain control, and we are greatly concerned about what they are capable of in Aleppo."

'No plan B'

But she stuck to the US position of only providing non-lethal assistance to the opposition rebels who have been fighting for 16 months to topple Assad.

"We do not believe that pouring more fuel on this fire is going to save lives. We are working in non-lethal ways. We are working to support the Syrian opposition," the spokesperson told journalists.

As UN heritage agency Unesco called for forces fighting in Syria to avoid damaging cultural sites, in particular in world heritage site Aleppo, UN chief peacekeeper Herve Ladsous said there was "no plan B".

"There is one political process for the time being, that is the six-point plan of the joint special envoy Kofi Annan," he told reporters in Damascus.

"And as you know, and has been said time and again, there is no plan B. There is no alternative to that."

Annan's plan called for an inclusive political process, a ceasefire, humanitarian aid, release of detainees, freedom of movement for journalists and peaceful demonstrations to be allowed.

Children among dead

"Syrians killing Syrians is something that should not continue," Ladsous added.

Clashes also erupted in and around southern Damascus, with five children among 16 people killed when a village outside the capital was shelled while fighting rocked the Yarmuk Palestinian refugee camp, the Observatory and witnesses said.

Regime helicopters also strafed targets in Al-Hajar Al-Aswad neighbourhood, activists and residents said.

"Last night was quiet but people woke up to the sound of explosions and shelling from seven o'clock in the morning," an activist calling himself Abu Qais al-Shami said.

After a week of heavy clashes, activists say regime forces have largely regained control of Damascus, with just a few pockets of resistance remaining.

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said on Thursday Assad's regime was bound to fall.


"I'm confident that sooner or later, Bashar will fall," he said at a Warsaw news conference, describing the actions of the regime as "abominable behaviour".

Meanwhile, Israel on Thursday boosted security along its ceasefire line with Syria in the occupied Golan Heights, an Israeli source said on condition of anonymity.

Syria's foreign ministry confirmed the defection of three diplomats, but downplayed their importance and indirectly accused Qatar - where they reportedly fled - of encouraging "national division".

It named them as Lamia Hariri, charge d'affaires in Cyprus, her husband Abdel Latif al-Dabbagh, ambassador to the United Arab Emirates, and Mohammed Tahsin al-Fakir, security attache in Oman.

A European Commission aid expert said on Thursday the humanitarian situation in Syria had taken a dramatic turn for the worse.

"It's like running behind a train that constantly keeps accelerating," said the official, adding that more funds were needed to assist refugees fleeing to neighbouring Iraq, Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey.

Tens of thousands of people have fled Syria to escape the violence which the Observatory says has killed more than 19 000 people since mid-March 2011.

  • AnthonyfromAfrica - 2012-07-27 08:01

    This assad terrorist and his 'inner circle' should not be allowed to get away with these masacres. They should either be hung from a high tree, or be send to The Hague. The Syrian people will win this battle, but the cost, thanks to Russia, is going to be high !!

      jack.russel.14268769 - 2012-07-27 08:12

      16 months and counting, I see the US and NATO not jumping in to help. Oh they too busy pumping oil in Lybia

      fred.fraser.12 - 2012-07-27 09:00

      Your first sentence is accurate, Jack. Your second plain stupid.

      AnthonyfromAfrica - 2012-07-27 18:00

      The USA did not take a drop of oil pre abbatoir, during that fruitcake's visit to the abbatoir nor after he left the abbatoir for a sand holiday !!!

      fred.fraser.12 - 2012-07-27 22:27

      Patrick is truly delusional. Like Fidel, he holds a highly immature anti-West core belief. Everyone knows the US is NOT involved in Syria. This is what the Free Syria Army is complaining about, and rightly so. The unelected dictator of the country has control of the Syrian state and its military. He is using these to destroy Syrians who want to vote for their leaders and live free of oppressive rule. He has openly called himself the bloody surgeon of Syria, and is being armed by the neo-Communist Russian regime which is led by an ex-KGB officer (Putin). Syria will be free, notwithstanding the seemingly hopeless situation Syrians and their families appear to be facing.

  • Badger - 2012-07-27 08:25

    Nice one N24, I see we suffering with a bit of a st-st-stutter this this this morning !!!!

  • sipho.zipi - 2012-07-27 08:44

    It seems , that the US as always is playing an active role in this war . Is looks like a war to control world oil resources , by them . I hope they fail , because this is not about the syrian people but greed by the US and it's allies .

      fred.fraser.12 - 2012-07-27 09:02

      Are you even following this story? The US is NOT involved. That's the problem. The Syrian rebels have virtually been begging the freer world to help them agains the UNELECTED dictator of the country who has control of the state and its military and is killing, detaining, torturing and raping them. Wake up!

  • jlushaba - 2012-07-27 09:18

    The US out to control other countries mineral resouces..... In the countries they dnt hv control, they find a way 2 influence civilians 2 pick up arms against it government.

  • steve.ritchie.739 - 2012-07-27 09:27

    And the sick, sad part of it all, is there is always someone making a profit out of it. However, there is no place in the world for dictators.

      allcoveredinNinjas - 2012-07-27 09:54

      One mans s%it is another mans bread and butter. Unfortunately that will never change, a doctor makes a profit from suffering and security guards make a living from crime but we wouldn't be without them. These dictators are being pressed hard , their people either revolting or taking to media against them. Its sad that some people support dictators , war lords and theocracies .

  • DawidDBBotes - 2012-07-27 09:52

    Warnings of warnings are always the worst!

  • duncan.gill1 - 2012-07-27 10:08

    Not surprising if to remember whole chain of uprisings in Northern African countries as well as in the ME was properly orchestrated by american higher military headquarters. Yanks hate everything and everyone which doesnt bow down to their boot. Assad did not dance to the music of US and their Sunni friends now they try to make him pay.

      fred.fraser.12 - 2012-07-27 16:56

      Clearly you have little to no knowledge of what is happening in North Africa and the Middle East.

  • jans.opresser - 2012-07-27 20:19

    can some one please explain to me on how Assad is about to massacre the people of Aleppo if some NATO general from Norway has said that Assad is about to fall on another thread? what assad is abut to do is crush this foreign invasion in his country and the west knows that there is nothing that they can do about it.

      fred.fraser.12 - 2012-07-27 22:29

      In Patrick's opinion, based on his highly immature and obsessive anti-West core belief.

      fred.fraser.12 - 2012-07-27 22:32

      The UN official from Norway said Assad will fall. He didn't say Assad's about to fall. You're distorting reality again. You also pretend to ask a question, but have already made up your mind about the answer. So it's not a real question. It's a manipulative way of making a statement. Assad's troops are being watched moving towards Allepo from satellites orbiting the Earth. Have you heard of satellites?

      fred.fraser.12 - 2012-07-27 23:42

      Satellites, like the computer and Internet you're using, the phone, car and television you use, and the planes you fly in are all Western inventions, not inventions of the Middle East. This is not because the people of the Middle East are incapable of inventions. It's because of the highly oppressive and controlling regines they've been subjected to, which confine, even crush the human spirit. The same can be said about neo-Communist Russia and China. Very little in enticeness comes put of them, for the same reason. If you truly believe in the people of the Middle East and the human spirit, you will support their insatiable drive to free themselves from decades of oppressive rule by unelected dictators.

      fred.fraser.12 - 2012-07-27 23:43

      " in enticeness" = inventiveness

      fred.fraser.12 - 2012-07-28 02:30

      The Middle East can do what India and South Korea are doing: become industrial and technological powerhouses. To get there it had to free itself from the oppressive, patriarchal, ultra-chauvinistic, unelected dictatorships. Individual spirit and ingenuity, released from this oppression, amplified by more expansive and progressive use oc thd vast oil wealth, that will dwindle in the not too distant future, are what will get it there.

      fred.fraser.12 - 2012-07-28 02:55

      The Middle East can do what India and South Korea are doing: become industrial and technological powerhouses. To get there it has to free itself from the oppressive, patriarchal, ultra-chauvinistic, unelected dictatorships. Individual spirit and ingenuity, released from this oppression, amplified by more expansive and progressive use of its vast oil wealth, that will dwindle in the not too distant future, are what will get it there.

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