Only last month we were writing of insurgents putting pressure on the Syrian regime in Aleppo, moving in from the northwest and threatening to take positions to the south.
This morning the headline situation is reversed after President Assad’s forces broke the months-long siege of Aleppo Central Prison (pictured), just to the north of Syria’s largest city. The opposition effort to take the facility, freeing thousands of detainees at risk of starvation or death — adding to the many hundreds who have already died there — appears to be over.
But that is only the start of the story. Syrian forces are reportedly preparing to move to the west of the Prison, attacking the long-held insurgent position in Hraytan, and there are unconfirmed claims that they could take the Sheikh Najjar industrial area to the northeast of Aleppo.
If the regime succeeded on both fronts, it could cut off supplies to insurgents in the eastern half of Aleppo, a siege that could tip the balance in the 22-month stalemate in the city.
An Army statement declared, “The new achievement is highly important as it serves to tighten the noose on residual terrorist groups in the eastern and northeastern outskirts of Aleppo city and cuts off supply lines that terrorist gangs were using for movement from the northern countryside towards the city.”
Just before the regime breakthrough, insurgent commanders spoke of difficulties as they faced massive regime firepower with inadequate arms.
“Everybody knows the rebels don’t have high quality weapons, we have normal weapons. We don’t have enough ammunition,” said Abu Bilal, the military commander for the leading insurgent faction Liwa al-Tawhid:
They used the firepower from air strikes and shoot from far away. The airplanes normally come very high and bomb, that’s their strategy.
Abu Assad, the military commander for the insurgent bloc Islamic Front, added, “The reason for their advance is unequal power. We don’t have equality of weapons against the regime and their aircraft and the tanks.”
Syrian forces celebrating inside the Prison:
UN’s Ban “We are Prepared to Send Aid Through Crossings Outside Regime Control”
In a notable shift of position, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon said on Thursday that the UN is prepared to send aid via border crossings outside regime control.
The UN has refrained from such shipments to date because of Damascus’ warning that it would halt co-operation on any aid deliveries.
The UN said eaerlier this week that 85% of food aid and 75% of medicines have gone to regime-controlled areas this year, in contrast to a 50-50 split in 2013 between regime-controlled and insurgent-controlled neighborhoods.
In recent weeks, the US and Britain have responded to concerns about inability to get aid to millions of displaced and at-risk Syrians by saying they would work with groups outside the UN.
Ban’s report said that, as the Assad regime has “failed” to care for its people, “We are ready to put in place arrangements at key border and line crossings to facilitate, improve and monitor access,” the report says, including at crossings “currently outside the government’s effective control.”
Ban said about 9.3 million people, including 6.5 million displaced by fighting, are in need of urgent humanitarian assistance within Syria.
Meanwhile Mercy Corps has confirmed that it has been forced to close its operations in Damascus after Syrian officials demanded that it halt work in insurgent-held areas of the country.
The Corps halted its efforts on April 30, It assisted more than 350,000 civilians in the south and more than 1.7 million in the north.
Video: Insurgents Inside Regime Tank Base Captured on Thursday
Insurgents walk through a regime tank base near Morek in Hama Province, overrun by an opposition counter-attack on Thursday:
Syrian forces have been trying for weeks to take Morek, on the highway from Hama to Idlib Province in northwest Syria.
Video: Islamic Front Makes Islamic State of Iraq Prisoners Undress to Prevent Suicide Bombers
Fearing suicide bombings, the insurgent bloc Islamic Front makes captured Islamic State of Iraq and as-Sham fighters undress:
ISIS has carried out a series of suicide attacks using members wearing explosive belts.
Video: Kafranbel Protest Denounces Russian Veto of UN Resolution
The Friday protest in Kafranbel in northwest Syria responds to last night’s Russian veto of a United Nations resolution to take the Syrian case to the International Criminal Court:
A direct message for Russian President Vladimir Putin:
Russia Sending Observers to Presidential Election
Russia said on Thursday that it will help ensure a free and fair Presidential election with a team of two observers for the June 3 vote.
The Chairman of the Russian Duma Foreign Affairs Committee, Alexey Pushkov, said, “Moscow will send Chairman of the Property Committee at Duma Council Sergey Gavrilov of the Communist Party and Member of the international Affairs Committee Ivan Kveita of Unified Russia Party.”
Iran has said that it is also considering the despatch of monitors.
Syria sent letters of invitation for observers to 11 countries: Russia, China,India, South Africa, Brazil, Venezuela, Cuba, Nicaragua, Bolivia, Ecuador, and Armenia.