February 16, 2014
Violence continued to rage in Aleppo after the second round of the Geneva II peace talks collapsed Saturday, with the regime maintaining its campaign of barrel bombing parts of the city while seeking to advance on rebel positions in eastern and southern Aleppo.
Fighting last week was particularly intense in the town of Karam a-Turab, near the Aleppo International Airport and six kilometers southeast of the city, with pro-regime media reporting that government forces had gained full control of the town. Pro-opposition media refuted the claims, but reported Tuesday that Karam a-Turab had been bombarded Tuesday by barrel bombs, as had other areas in Aleppo province. Areas throughout Aleppo province have faced an intensified barrel bombing campaign since the start of the Geneva II peace talks on January 22, and have contributed in making the past three weeks the bloodiest in Syria’s nearly three-year civil war; the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights stated that some 6,000 have died in Syria during this period, an average of roughly 242 per day.
Volunteer rescue workers carrying children from destroyed building in Aleppo. Video courtesy of alriyadh Newspaper.
Ahmed al-Ahmed is a citizen journalist in Aleppo. He tells Syria Direct’s Osama Abu Zeid that the regime has been unable to advance in Aleppo despite the fierce barrel bombing campaign and its claims of success in Karam al-Turab.
Q: Has the regime’s use of barrel bombs in Aleppo enabled government forces to advance?
Despite the barrel bombs that have been falling on eastern neighborhoods and all the killing and destruction they have caused, the regime has not advanced a footstep. On the contrary, most of the rebel battalions fighting have been going toward the areas that are being shelled in order to prevent regime forces from advancing.
Q: What are the battalions fighting the regime in Aleppo, and how well equipped are they?
There are many brigades and battalions fighting there, including Jaish al-Mujahideen (which formed recently, on January 3rd, 2014) and Jabhat a-Nusra and the Islamic Front. These battalions are resisting all regime efforts to advance. They are using good weapons; some battalions possess tanks, and some have [Russian made] Konkurs missiles in addition to RPGs.
Q: Where exactly is the regime centered in Karam al-Turab?
The regime is stationed on the south side of Karam al-Turab, near the Aleppo International Airport—this front is a constant flashpoint for fighting between the rebels and the regime as rebels look to stop regime progress despite the continuous shelling.
Q. The regime claimed that it controls Karam al-Turab—why do you think it declared that now?
It is well known that the regime is always lying and always announcing victories on the ground, despite not having any real progress. This is to improve the morale of its units that have been fighting for more than two years. Nothing has changed. The most important reason for the recent declaration is the Geneva conference, and the regime’s desire to prove to its allies the Russians and the Iranians that it can still advance, and that it can fight al-Qaeda, which is what it is saying to the West.
Q. Why is the regime trying to control Karam a-Turab, and why did it choose to advance from the east?
There are several reasons. One is to be as close as possible to Aleppo International Airport, and to be close to the open supply route that runs eastward and connects it with its allies in the town of a-Safira, and another route connecting it with fighters in Khan Touma.
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