Pro-Assad forces are on the verge of capturing all remaining opposition-held areas of Syria's largest city Aleppo, with fears of death or detention for tens of thousands of civilians. Regime troops and allied Iranian-led foreign and paramilitary forces, supported by intense Russian air-strikes, took all but a few remaining districts on Dec. 12. Claims circulate of the execution of scores of civilians in districts that have fallen to pro-regime forces. Residents and activists spoke of widespread detention of fighting-age men. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon's office issued a statement voicing alarm over "reports of atrocities against a large number of civilians, including women and children, in recent hours in Aleppo." UN humanitarian adviser Jan Egeland said Assad and Russia will be held "accountable for any and all atrocities that the victorious militias in Aleppo are now committing."
A global day of "Rage for Aleppo" was held Oct. 1, with protests against the siege and bombardment of the city reported from more than 30 cities across the world. Some Muslim counties had their demonstrations a day early, after the Friday prayer. (Iran-Arab Spring, Oct. 1) The joint Assad-Putin campaign of aerial terror on Aleppo remains unrelenting, and continues to make hospitals a sepcial target. Regime or Russian warplanes bombed two hospitals in the besieged rebel-held sector of Aleppo on Sept. 28. Two patients were killed in one of the strikes, and six residents queuing for bread near the hospital were killed in the other. Only about 30 doctors are believed to be left inside the besieged zone, overwhelmed by hundreds of casualties every day. Some 250,000 people are trapped in the city, with food running out. On Sept. 30, another water station in opposition-held eastern Aleppo was hit in air-strikes, leaving still more residents without water. (MEM, Spet. 30; Reuters, Sept. 29)
Ahmad Rahami, the suspect in last week's bombings in New York and New Jersey, was charged (PDF) in the US District Court for the Southern District of New York Sept. 20. The charges include: Use of Weapons of Mass Destruction, Bombing a Place of Public Use, Destruction of Property by Means of Fire or Explosive, and Use of a Destructive Device During and in Furtherance of a Crime of Violence. Rahami is also facing similar charges (PDF) in the US District Court for the District of New Jersey. The Sept. 17 bombings injured 29 in New York; no one was injured in the New Jersey attack. Rahami was arrested two days later after sustaining injuries during a shootout with police in in Linden, NJ. The suspect also faces charges of attempted murder of a law enforcement officer stemming from the shootout.
Two days after the supposed Syria "ceasefire" took effect, Assad regime and Russian warplanes carried out multiple air-strikes on rebel-held towns in Aleppo, Hama, Idlib and Damascus governorates, leaving some 20 dead and many more wounded. (Orient Net, Sept. 12) Pro-Moscow news sources (Sputnik, Al Masdar News) boast that the regime has "liberated" territory in these areas from "jihadists"—but without actually naming which "jihadist" factions were engaged, leaving open the possibility that Moscow and Assad are continuing their propaganda trick of conflating all rebel forces with ISIS. Especially hyped by these sources is the regime's taking of Handarat, Aleppo, a Palestinian refugee camp whose residents seem to be factionalized and drawn into the fighting on both sides.
We've repeatedly pointed out the sinister side of Great Power cooperation in Syria: previous ceasefires and "peace deals" have only meant an escalation of the conflict—most recently, the siege of Aleppo and other regime gains. So the utmost cynicism is called for in viewing the pact announced Sept. 10 between Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in Geneva. Another fictional "ceasefire" is to take effect in two days, dependent on compliance by Bashar Assad's Russian-backed forces and "US-supported" rebel groups (although we question how "US-supported" they really are). If the truce holds for a week, the US and Russia will actually begin coordinating on air-strikes. "We believe the plan as it is set forth—if implemented, if followed—has the ability to provide a turning point, a moment of change," Kerry said, according to AP. But a "turning point" toward what?
The Turkish intervention in northern Syria has set off open war between Free Syrian Army factions and the Rojava Kurds—which will only serve the interests of ISIS and Assad. Portrayed as an offensive against ISIS, the intervention has at least equally targeted the Kurds—the most effective anti-ISIS in Syria. Turkey, long accused of conniving with ISIS to weaken the Kurds, is now making a bid for its own "buffer zone" in north Syria, reducing or completely usurping the Rojava autonomous zone. The US is now torn between its NATO ally Turkey and the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) it has been backing against ISIS. US Central Command on Aug. 30 claimed it hads secured a "loose agreement" for a ceasefire between Turkish and Kurdish forces. This was immediately refuted by Ankara, with cabinet minister Omer Celik saying flatly: "We do not accept in any circumstances a 'compromise or a ceasefire reached between Turkey and Kurdish elements." (MEE, Aug. 31)