Tens of thousands of Syrians have fled from Aleppo after the city was nearly encircled by the forces of President Bashar al-Assad, supported by Iranian troops and hundreds of Russian air strikes.
“The Russian cover continues night and day, there were more than 250 air strikes on this area in one day,” Hassan Haj Ali, the leader of a U.S.-backed rebel group, told Reuters Friday. “The regime is now trying to expand the area it has taken control of. Now the northern countryside is totally encircled, and the humanitarian situation is very difficult.” Haj Ali said that the Syrian government forces were backed by Iranian and Afghan troops, as well as soldiers from the Iran-backed terror organization Hezbollah.
Iranian state media has reported that General Mohsen Ghajarian, a general in Iran’s elite Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), was killed during fighting in Aleppo, as were six members of Iran’s Basij volunteer militia.
“It feels like a siege of Aleppo is about to begin,” said David Evans, Middle East program director for the U.S. aid agency Mercy Corps. The most direct route for humanitarian aid into Aleppo has been cut off. The assault, Reuters wrote, “helped to torpedo peace talks in Geneva this week.”
Madaya, a Sunni-majority city in northwestern Syria near the border with Lebanon, has been under siege by Hezbollah and Syrian forces since July. With little food aid getting in, over 50 people in Madaya have reportedly died from starvation.
Haj Ali pleaded with countries backing the rebels to send more support. “We demand daily more support, but the issue of anti-aircraft (weapons) has become a dream … the dream that will not come true,” he said. Another rebel commander, Maj. Hassan Ibrahim told The New York Times said that funds and weapons from the United States were dwindling.
The advance on Aleppo comes as the White House is facing increased pressure to hold Assad and his allies to the terms of United Nations Security Council Resolution 2254, which called for an end to the sieges and bombing of civilians, with The Washington Post ‘s editorial board writing earlier this week that the Obama administration’s inaction was “enabling…war crimes.”
[Photo: Wall Street Journal / YouTube ]