Category: Lion City of Aleppo


June 27, 2017

An eight-year-old Syrian girl who drew global attention with her Twitter updates from the besieged Syrian city of Aleppo was named one of the most influential people on the internet by Time Magazine.

Other people on this year’s list included British author J.K. Rowling, pop singer Rihanna, celebrity Kim Kardashian, and U.S. President Donald Trump.

Time makes its annual choice based on those with global influence on social media and in generating news headlines.

Helped by her mother Fatemah, who manages the @AlabedBana Twitter account, Bana Alabed uploaded pictures and videos of life amidst the Syrian war, gaining around 365,000 followers on the micro-blogging site since last September.

“I can’t go out because of the bombing please stop bombing us,” Bana wrote when she first joined Twitter on Sept. 24, 2016.

“Aleppo is very good city but we need peace. I want to live like a child but instead I am stressed now,” she wrote.

Last December, Bana, who was seven at the time, and her family were evacuated safely from the rebel-held eastern part of Aleppo to Turkey, where they were greeted by Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan at his palace.

Syria has been locked in a vicious civil war since early 2011 when Bashar Assad’s regime cracked down on pro-democracy protests, which erupted as part of the Arab Spring uprisings.

Since then, more than 400,000 people have been killed and more than 11 million have been displaced, 6.3 million internally and 5.1 million externally, across the war-battered country, according to the U.N.

Turkey, hosting more than 3 million Syrian refugees, which accounts for around 45 percent of all Syrian refugees in the region, has spent around $25 billion helping and sheltering refugees during that time.

Source: Daily Sabah.

Link: https://www.dailysabah.com/syrian-crisis/2017/06/27/aleppo-girl-bana-alabed-named-among-times-most-influential-people-on-internet.

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24 December 2016 Saturday

Turkish authorities said Saturday that 220 seriously injured Aleppan civilians have been treated in Turkey following the evacuation of the war-battered Syrian city of Aleppo.

The injured civilians were taken from the opposition-held city of Idlib to waiting ambulances at the Turkish border crossing of Cilvegozu, the Turkish Prime Ministry Directorate General of Press and Information told Anadolu Agency.

The figure of 220 Aleppans includes 93 injured children.

Thirty-one have been discharged following treatment.

Source: World Bulletin.

Link: http://www.worldbulletin.net/todays-news/182188/more-than-200-injured-aleppans-treated-in-turkey.

February 18, 2017

Syrian regime forces have executed the Syrian pediatrician Mahmoud Satu after he was indicted for treating and feeding the children of Aleppo when its eastern districts were controlled by the opposition, the Jordanian Assabeel newspaper reported yesterday.

Citing the London-based news website Al-Araby Al-Jadeed, Assabeel said that local sources in Aleppo said that Satu and another Syrian resident called Ahmed Assad were executed two months after they were arrested.

According to the sources, the two men were executed in the main square of the Al-Sukarri neighborhood in Aleppo, the area where he and his family had lived.

Sources close to Satu told a Syrian news site El-Dorar that he was arrested on 11 December 2016, when the regime raided the Al-Salihin neighborhood in Aleppo. The Syrian news site also said that the pediatrician and his family were captured when they were trying to leave Aleppo with the other residents.

Satu worked in the city of Aleppo in field hospitals. He was reported as having refused to leave Aleppo along with his family, but they were arrested and the doctor was executed over “treating and feeding the children of terrorists.”

According to Al-Araby Al-Jadeed, Satu wrote on his Facebook page before he was arrested: “What is going on in Aleppo is heart-breaking and a savage and barbaric act which is not being done except by a dog dealing with pigs. He [Al-Assad] forgets that God is watching.”

The Syrian regime and its Iran-backed Shia jihadist allies, backed by Russian airpower, gained control of Aleppo after three months of fierce ground attacks and airstrikes. Hundreds of civilians were killed and wounded as homes, schools and hospitals were targeted.

Source: Middle East Monitor.

Link: https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/20170218-syria-regime-executes-paediatrician-for-treating-aleppo-children/.

January 22, 2017

ALEPPO, Syria (AP) — The street looks as if it was hit by an earthquake and the bombed-out building in a former rebel-held northeastern neighborhood of Aleppo is deserted — except for the second-floor apartment where Abdul-Hamid Khatib and his family are staying.

There is no electricity or running water. The apartment windows are covered with nylon sheets and a hole caused by a shell in the sitting room wall is closed with a piece of metal, pierced by the exhaust pipe for the wood-burning heater.

Khatib and his family are the only occupants of the six-story building and they keep its main gate locked with a metal chain, fearing looters. At night, they fumble around the two-bedroom apartment with candles.

But the family has nowhere else to go. The 56-year-old blacksmith had been jobless for months and could not afford to continue paying rent. He was worried their apartment in Aleppo’s Ansari neighborhood would be completely looted if they stayed away.

“A few days ago a man who brought some stuff over told me, ‘Is it possible that you live here?’ I said where can we go? At least this is our house and no one will ask us to leave,” said Hasnaa, Khatib’s wife.

Life and war have been very unkind to the Khatib family. The eldest son Mohammed was killed in the bombardment of east Aleppo in 2013 and their granddaughter Hasnaa, 4, was killed a year later by a bullet as she played on the balcony of her parents’ apartment. Their son Mahmoud died at work of severe burns while welding a metal container filled with gas.

Since rebels fighting to topple President Bashar Assad stormed east Aleppo in July 2012, the family had to leave the house twice to move to safer areas, before returning back home. But in August 2016, when government forces intensified their offensive on east Aleppo, an airstrike near their home forced them to flee for the third time.

“It was so dangerous and our kids were terrified so we could not tolerate it anymore. We used to tell the gunmen to move away from here but they would not listen to us,” Abdul-Hamid said. In late December, government forces and their allies took control of east Aleppo, bringing the whole city under state control in the biggest victory for Assad since the country’s conflict began in March 2011.

The Khatib family — like many of east Aleppo’s residents — were taken to shelters in the village of Jibrin, just south of Aleppo, where they spent a week before returning to their hometown during the first week of January.

Having little money left to rent an apartment, they returned to their abandoned home in Ansari and fixed it as much as possible. They found many of their belongings looted including the refrigerator, stove, a microwave and seven gas cylinders. When asked who was behind the looting, Khatib blamed both rebels and pro-government gunmen.

The couple now lives in the apartment with their daughter Rasha, daughter-in-law and two grandchildren, Abdul-Hamid and Rimas. Their apartment appears in relatively good shape compared with nearby housing units. The buildings on either side of theirs are uninhabitable. Most buildings in their area are either a pile of metal and stones, or so damaged they’re no longer suitable to live in. Their home now attracts attention from curious passersby as it’s the only apartment on the street with washed laundry hanging from the balcony and wood smoke coming from the heater.

Thousands of other families from east Aleppo have returned to their homes because they have nowhere else to go. Others come in every day to look at their homes and take whatever they can carry with them — especially those in heavily damaged buildings. One neighboring family came to check on their home about 50 meters away and found it could collapse at any moment.

Despite everything, Abdul-Hamid Khatib is optimistic that the situation in his city can only get better. But his wife, Hasnaa, wishes they had fled Syria and joined the nearly four million refugees who settled in neighboring countries, mostly Lebanon and Turkey.

“I feel life was so unjust to me. Although I am alive, I feel as if I am dead,” she said, sitting on a plastic chair in her living room.” I wish we left at the beginning of the crisis, even if we had to stay in the street.”

December 24, 2016

BEIRUT (AP) — An explosion rocked eastern Aleppo on Saturday as some residents were returning to their homes after the government assumed full control of the city earlier this week, state TV reported while fresh airstrikes on a rebel-held town near Aleppo killed at least five people.

The airstrikes on areas near the northern city of Aleppo show the government has resumed military activities after days of calm that coincided with the evacuation of tens of thousands of civilians and rebels from east Aleppo.

On Thursday, President Bashar Assad’s forces took control of eastern neighborhoods of Aleppo for the first time since July 2012, marking the government’s biggest victory since the crisis began more than five years ago.

Government forces will likely now try to secure the outskirts of the city as rebels are based in the western and southwestern suburbs of Aleppo, Syria’s largest city and once commercial center. The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said an airstrike on the town of Atareb, west of Aleppo, killed five people including a man, his daughter and daughter-in-law.

The Aleppo Media Center, an activist collective, said the airstrikes killed seven people including a woman and two children. The Saturday noon airstrike on Atareb came after airstrikes on nearby villages the night before killed three rebels, according to the Observatory.

Earlier Saturday, state TV said the explosion in east Aleppo was caused by a device left inside a school by Syrian rebels, who withdrew from their last remaining enclave under a cease-fire deal after more than four years of fighting. It said three people were wounded in the blast.

A correspondent for Lebanon’s Hezbollah-run Al-Manar TV was reporting live from the area when the blast sounded in the background, sending a huge cloud of dust into the air. The correspondent later said that at least three people were killed.

In the capital Damascus, state news agency SANA said militants blew up the Barada water pipeline in the suburb of Kafr al-Zayt. SANA quoted the director of Damascus and Damascus Countryside Water Establishment Hussam Hreidin as saying that the pipeline went out of service due to the attack. He added that the pipeline had been fixed and its service restored on Friday less than a month after a similar attack.

Pro-government media said the government was forced to cut water supplies coming to the Syrian capital for a few days and use reserves instead after rebels polluted the water with diesel. The al-Fija spring which supplies Damascus with water is in the rebel-held Barada valley northwest of the capital in a mountainous area near the Lebanese border.

The cut in water supplies comes at a time when government forces and their allies are on the offensive in the Barada Valley area.

December 23, 2016

BEIRUT (AP) — The Syrian government took full control of Aleppo on Thursday for the first time in four years after the last opposition fighters and civilians were bused out of war-ravaged eastern districts, sealing the end of the rebellion’s most important stronghold.

The evacuations ended a brutal chapter in Syria’s nearly six-year civil war, allowing President Bashar Assad to regain full authority over the country’s largest city and former commercial powerhouse. It marked his most significant victory since an uprising against his family’s four-decade rule began in 2011.

The announcement was made via an army statement broadcast on Syrian state TV shortly after the last four buses carrying fighters left through the Ramousseh crossing. “Thanks to the blood of our heroic martyrs, the heroic deeds and sacrifices of our armed forces and the allied forces, and the steadfastness of our people, the General Command of the Army and the Armed Forces announces the return of security and stability to Aleppo,” an army general said in the statement.

Western Aleppo erupted in heavy celebratory gunfire, with Syrian TV showing uniformed soldiers and civilians shouting “Aleppo, Aleppo!” and “God, Syria and Bashar only!” “No more east and west, Aleppo is back for all Aleppans,” said the Syrian TV correspondent, surrounded by people waving Syrian flags.

For Syria’s opposition, it was a crushing defeat that signaled the start of a new struggle to forge a way forward. Ahmad al-Khatib, an opposition media activist who left the city before the siege, said the fall of Aleppo was a date “we’ll never forget and we will never forgive.”

“Let the world bear witness that Bashar Assad has killed and displaced and destroyed Aleppo, and he celebrates in his victory over the blood and offspring of Aleppo … with the agreement of the Arab and Western nations,” he posted on Twitter.

The ancient city had been divided into rebel and government parts since 2012, when rebels from the countryside swept in and took hold of eastern districts. That set the stage for more than four years of brutal fighting and government bombardment that laid waste to those neighborhoods.

The army statement said the victory in Aleppo is a “strategic transformation and a turning point in the war on terrorism and a deadly blow to the terrorist project and its supporters.” It was a further incentive to keep fighting to “eradicate terrorism and restore security and stability to every span of the homeland,” it added.

Earlier in the day, Assad said his forces’ achievements in Aleppo are a “major step on the road to wiping out terrorism” and ending the civil war. The rebel evacuations were set in motion after a months-long siege and Russian-backed military campaign. Years of resistance were stamped out in a relentless campaign over the past month that saw hospitals bombed, bodies left unburied and civilians killed by shells as they fled for safety.

The campaign targeted all remaining hospitals, knocking them out of service. Medical and food supplies ran out and fighters were left demoralized and abandoned by their regional allies. Under a deal brokered by Russia and Turkey, tens of thousands of residents and fighters began evacuating to opposition-controlled areas in the surrounding countryside, a process that took a week.

More than 35,000 fighters and civilians were bused out, according to the United Nations. The ICRC said in a statement that more than 4,000 additional fighters were evacuated in private cars, vans and trucks since Wednesday.

The departure of the last convoy Thursday was a humiliating defeat for the opposition. The rebels’ hold in Aleppo was a major point of pride, and at times the city seemed to be an invulnerable part of what was once a growing opposition-held patch of territory in the north.

The divided northern city has paid dearly as a central theater of the war. In the past month alone, hundreds of civilians were killed by intense bombardment of rebel-held zones. A photo of 5-year-old Omran Daqneesh — confused and covered in dust and blood as he sat in an ambulance after being rescued in August from the rubble of a building — became a haunting image in the unforgiving struggle.

Associated Press writers Philip Issa and Bassem Mroue in Beirut contributed reporting.

December 20, 2016

BEIRUT (AP) — The last Syrian rebels and civilians are awaiting evacuation from the remainder of what was once a rebel enclave in eastern Aleppo, a day after the U.N. Security Council approved sending observers to monitor the exodus.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says that more than 15,000 people, among them 5,000 opposition fighters, have left the enclave since the rebels effectively surrendered the area under an Ankara- and Moscow-brokered deal. It’s unclear how many remain.

In Moscow, foreign ministers of Russia, Turkey and Iran are meeting on Tuesday to discuss Syria, but the talks are likely to be overshadowed by the assassination of Russia’s ambassador to Turkey the previous night by an Ankara policeman, who after killing his victim cried out: “Don’t forget Aleppo! Don’t forget Syria!”

December 17, 2016

BEIRUT (AP) — An agreement was reached Saturday to allow “humanitarian cases” to leave two besieged government-held Shiite villages in northwestern Syria, a step that would allow the resumption of civilian and rebel evacuations from eastern Aleppo which were suspended a day earlier, Hezbollah’s media arm and a monitoring group said.

The opposition’s Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the evacuation of some 4,000 people, including wounded, from the villages of Foua and Kfarya was expected to start Saturday. Hezbollah fighters have joined the Syrian war fighting along with President Bashar Assad’s forces. Opposition activists blamed the Lebanese group for blocking the main road south of Aleppo and blocking evacuations from rebel-held eastern neighborhoods of the city.

The Aleppo evacuation was suspended Friday after a report of shooting at a crossing point into the enclave by both sides of the conflict. Thousands were evacuated before the process was suspended. The Syrian government said the village evacuations and the one in eastern Aleppo must be done simultaneously, but the rebels say there’s no connection.

Hezbollah’s Military Media said the new deal includes the rebel-held towns of Madaya and Zabadani near the border with Lebanon where tens of thousands of people are trapped under siege by government forces and the Lebanese group.

Syrian State TV correspondent, speaking from Aleppo, said Saturday that the main condition for the Aleppo evacuation to resume is for residents of Foua and Kfarya to be allowed to leave. The cease-fire and evacuation from east Aleppo earlier this week marked the end of the rebels’ most important stronghold in the 5-year-old civil war. The suspension demonstrated the fragility of the cease-fire deal, in which civilians and fighters in the few remaining blocks of the rebel enclave were to be taken to opposition-held territory nearby.

In announcing the suspension, Syrian state TV said Friday that rebels were trying to smuggle out captives who had been seized in the enclave after ferocious battles with troops supporting Assad. Reports differed on how many people remain in the Aleppo enclave, ranging from 15,000 to 40,000 civilians, along with an estimated 6,000 fighters.

There also were contradictory reports on the number of evacuees who left on Thursday and early Friday from east Aleppo. Syrian state TV put it at more than 9,000 while Russia, a key Assad ally, said over 9,500 people, including more than 4,500 rebels, were taken out.

Wednesday 28 December 2016

The fall of Aleppo to Iran-backed pro-government forces has brought a bubbling conflict between Iran and Hamas to the boil, with the former making thinly-veiled threats to cut off the Palestinian group.

The threats came from Heshmatollah Falahatpisheh, a member of the Iranian Foreign Affairs and National Security Committee, in the wake of increasing solidarity from Hamas to Aleppo.

In an interview last week with the reformist Qanun newspaper, Falahatpisheh made clear there would be material consequences if Hamas did not change its position on Iran’s role in the region, not least its intervention in Syria.

If Hamas does not reconsider the “inconsistent positions by its leaders,” Tehran will be forced to turn to “the most detested of available options” – turning to other Palestinian factions such as the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, said Falahatpisheh on 21 December.

The tensions between Hamas, the most renowned anti-Israel movement in the region, and Iran are significant, as Tehran legitimizes its foreign policy through its “Axis of Resistance” against Israel and the United States, which includes Hamas, Lebanon’s Hezbollah and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

“Currently, the sphere of influence of the resistance extends from the Indian subcontinent to the borders of Israel,” Falahatpisheh said.

The harshness of the senior Iranian official’s tone underlines the depth of the crisis in relations. Falahatpisheh accused Hamas of continuing to “support terrorist groups working under the umbrella of the Syrian opposition”.

He described Hamas’ current stance as “hostile,” and saw the group as moving out of Iran’s sphere of influence.

Falahatpisheh demanded Hamas not forget that Syria was, in his words, “a leader in the resistance, and much of its misfortunes are now due to this position”.

Hamas’ support for Aleppo

“We are following with great pain what is happening in Aleppo and the horrific massacres, murders and genocide its people are going through, and condemn it entirely,” read a statement from Hamas at the height of the bombardment of Aleppo.

The movement asked those whom it described as “wise, free and responsible in the ummah (global Islamic community) to act promptly to protect civilians in Aleppo and save those who are still alive”.

It also called on international, human rights and humanitarian institutions around the world to intervene immediately to “stop these dreadful massacres, stand by the children, women and elderly of Aleppo and save them from death and destruction”.

Ahmed Youssef, a senior Hamas figure and former foreign relations head, told al-Khaleej Online that his group would not change course – not least after what happened in Aleppo.

Youssef said the group’s position reflected that of the Palestinian public, who themselves have suffered similar brutality during Israel’s repeated assaults on the Gaza Strip.

He was adamant that Hamas would continue to stand in solidarity with Syria and condemn the killing of civilians there.

During Hamas’ recent parade commemorating the movement’s 29th anniversary, civilian Gazans and Qassam Brigade soldiers alike were seen carrying banners in solidarity with the people of Aleppo.

Hamas-Iran tensions

On the issue of Iranian-Hamas relations, the Iranian outlet Qanun threw in its own two cents: “It seems that Hamas moved away from Iran a long time ago.”

“This can be clearly seen from what is taking place in Syria. All of this is occurring at a time when leaders of the movement deny the existence of any differences of opinion between Tehran and the movement.

“In reality, however, their actions contradict their words.”

“Its financial relations with the Arabs are the reason behind the incoherent positions among the movement’s leaders,” Falahatpisheh said, going as far as to add that the “Israeli lobby” was influencing the group’s position.

He accused a “current” within Hamas of “seeking to save Daesh under the label of the Syrian opposition”.

There are also tensions within Hamas’s leadership over Iran’s influence on the group’s direction, which were made public through information leaked to the London-based pan-Arab al-Sharq al-Awsat daily.

The leaks came from a meeting of senior Hamas leaders, where a leading commander of Hamas’s military wing expressed his concern over growing Iranian influence due to its financial and military support for the group.

Salah al-Arouri is a founding commander of Hamas’ military wing, the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, and the movement’s preeminent figure in the West Bank.

According to the leaks, he accused Qassem Soleimani – leader of the Quds Force, the elite branch of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) – of trying to weaken the Qassam Brigade’s allegiance to Hamas and attempting to absorb them into the Quds Force.

Arouri also protested in the meeting against the pressure Soleimani was putting on the group to pledge complete loyalty to Tehran in the same way Islamic Jihad had done when their general secretary, Ramadan Shalah, led a delegation to Tehran and pledged an oath of allegiance to the Iranian regime.

Relations between Hamas and Iran deteriorated sharply following the outbreak of the Syrian revolution in 2011. The following year, the group’s leadership left Damascus after being based there for more than a decade. Their funding was reduced drastically shortly thereafter.

“Our position on Syria affected relations with Iran. Its support for us never stopped, but the amounts [of money] were significantly reduced,” a senior Hamas official said in 2013.

In response to this turn of events, Iran ramped up funding for other Palestinian groups, most notably the Palestinian Islamic Jihad.

Islamic Jihad moves closer to Iran

Islamic Jihad has staged its own show of force in Gaza in recent months in a rally including its military wing – the al-Quds Brigades.

Shalah, quoted in the al-Sharq al-Awsat leaks as criticizing Iranian influence, spoke via video link at the October rally, saying: “[Iran] is the only country which commits to the unending support of the Palestinian cause”.

Islamic Jihad has had their own tensions with Iran over Syria for the past two years, but have recently changed tune and become one of Iran’s most vociferous Palestinian proxies.

Earlier this year, Shalah led a Palestinian Islamic Jihad delegation to Tehran and met with Soleimani.

“The defense of Palestine amounts to a defense of Islam,” Shalah said, adding: “The Arab states did not support the popular uprising in Palestine and will never support it since it contradicts their leaders’ agendas. Iran is the only state that supports the intifada and the martyrs’ families.”

Soleimani pledged to provide $70m in annual assistance to the Palestinian Islamic Jihad after the visit, which could explain their change in direction.

JPost reported that the move could be seen as a snub to Hamas following the 2015 visit by the movement’s political chief Khaled Meshaal to Iran’s arch-rival Saudi Arabia, which appeared to mark a significant warming of relations with the Gulf state.

At the end of his interview, Falahatpisheh said that Tehran “does not see Hamas as the whole of the resistance.

“If Hamas continues its current political direction in obstructing things, then Iran will develop new relations with other Palestinian groups without seriously harming the resistance.”

Source: Middle East Eye.

Link: http://www.middleeasteye.net/news/after-aleppo-s-fall-hamas-finds-itself-resisting-tehran-well-tel-aviv-1017030317.

December 17, 2016

A senior Iranian military commander has threatened further wars of conquest after describing the recent collapse of the Syrian opposition in Aleppo as an “Islamic conquest”, as footage has appeared showing Syrian refugees attempting to evacuate the ravaged city being shot at by Iran-backed Shia jihadists.

In comments to local Iranian media, Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) General Hossein Salami said: “It is now time for the Islamic conquests. After the liberation of Aleppo, Bahrain’s hopes will be realized and Yemen will be happy with the defeat of the enemies of Islam.”

The IRGC commander also said that “the people of Mosul will taste the taste of victory,” in reference to the ongoing Mosul operations.

The taste of “victory”, however, tasted of blood and terror in Aleppo as the Middle East correspondent for BuzzFeed News tweeted footage of what pro-Assad regime Iranian proxies were doing there.

Borzou Daragahi tweeted “This is what hell on earth looks like,” as video footage from the devastated city shows “hungry, freezing men, women and children” who are trying to evacuate Aleppo are fired upon by the Shia jihadists.

This footage was supported by further reports and footage from Syrian journalist Rami Jarrah. Jarrah’s footage shows witnesses recounting their stories of how their convoy that was travelling with the Red Cross was waylaid by the Assad regime.

As the men in the video are talking, they and a vast convoy of cars come under attack by Assad regime, creating panic as people try to escape.

Iran’s ’empire’ and ‘Shia Liberation Army’

Salami’s comments are not the first to emerge from within influential and powerful Iranian official circles.

In March 2015, Presidential Adviser Ali Younesi said that the Iraqi capital of Baghdad was now a “capital of the Iranian empire,” inflaming the Arab world and especially Iraqis who have felt Iran’s pervading and dominating influence in their country.

Last November, Iranian army Chief of Staff General Mohammed Bagheri said that his country would in all likelihood set up military bases in Yemen, Syria and other Arab countries.

Speaking to the state-run Mashregh news agency in August, retired IRGC General Mohammad Ali Falaki said that Iran had created a “Shia Liberation Army” under the command of IRGC Qods Force commander Brigadier-General Qassem Soleimani.

According to Falaki, the Shia Liberation Army was already active on three “fronts” in Iraq, Syria and Yemen.

Source: Middle East Monitor.

Link: https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/20161217-iran-threatens-bahrain-yemen-with-islamic-conquest-like-aleppo/.