Syria Daily: Uncertainty Over Key Battle North of Aleppo

PHOTO: Rebels in the al-Mallah Farms, north of Aleppo city


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The key battle north of Syria’s largest city Aleppo has fallen into uncertainty, with almost no information coming out of the area on Tuesday.

Covered by intense Russian airstrikes, the Syrian army and allied Iraqi and Palestinian militia launched their latest assault last Friday. Hoping to seize the last main route into opposition-held areas of Aleppo, the force moved into the al-Mallah Farms.

State media and pro-regime supporters put out a series of claims that the offensive was advancing. At one point pro-Assad accounts said all of the Farms had been taken, with the most enthusiastic asserting that the al-Castello Road had been cut.

However, the Syrian army settled on Monday for the declaration that it has taken the northern area of the Farms and part of the southern section. The pro-regime Al-Masdar News said “65%” of the Farms have been taken, although it admitted that the offensive, including the elite Tiger Forces, was unable to hold territory in the south and faces a rebel counter-offensive.

Pro-opposition outlets said on Monday that pro-Assad forces initially gained ground as rebels retreated under Russian airstrikes; however, they maintained that the rebels soon re-established their control over the disputed areas.

Opposition supporters also claimed that regime attacks to the east near Handarat and in western Aleppo city were repelled, while pro-regime accounts declared that building blocks in Layramoun in western Aleppo were occupied.

This morning the pro-regime sites merely say that the Russian air force carried out more strikes overnight, offering no assertions about the situation on the ground.

The Syrian military and its allies, enabled by Russian bombing, have tried for months to close off the al-Castello Road but have been repeatedly pushed back. Before the latest offensive, several attempts to advance into al-Mallah and near Handarat were foiled in June.


Video: Injured Journalist al-Abdallah Speaks from Hospital

Journalist Hadi al-Abdallah, seriously injured in a bombing in Aleppo city in mid-June, speaks from his hospital bed in Turkey:

Marking the Eid holiday at the end of the holy month of Ramadan, Abdallah offered wishes and prayers for colleagues who have been killed. The victims include his friend and cameraman Khaled al-Issa, who died of injuries suffered in the bombing that wounded Abdallah.

Friends said the journalist, prominent for his frontline reporting in the Syrian conflict, is likely to need six months for recovery.

Abdallah said he would return to work, ”We’ll continue even we get hurt 1000 times.”


Video: President Assad at Eid Prayers

Footage from pro-regime al-Ikhbariya TV of President Assad at this morning’s prayers marking the end of the holy month of Ramadan:

The channel said Assad was at the al-Safa Mosque in Homs.


Islamic State Kills 16 in Suicide Bombing in Hasakah

The Islamic State has claimed responsibility for a suicide bombing on Tuesday night that killed at least 16 civilians and injured dozens more in Hasakah in northeastern Syria.

Announcing three days of mourning, the local council in the mainly-Kurdish city has cancelled all ceremonies for the end of the holy month of Ramadan. Civilians have been advised to avoid public areas and cooperate with Kurdish security forces in the city.

The bombing was in front of a bakery in the Salihiya neighbourhood. Three children and a woman are among the dead.

The Islamic State’s Amaq news agency said that the attack, carried out by two bombers, killed “35 Kurdish fighters from the People’s Protection Units [YPG]”. However, local sources and Kurdish officials denied the death of any YPG forces.

The suicide bombing follows two days of clashes between pro-Assad fighters and the Kurdish police in Hasakah.

“ISIS wants to use the clashes between the Asayish [police] and the regime, and is seeing a weak point to carry out bombings,” said Amjad Othman of the Kurdish Reform party “We have to be careful as Kurds to have a balance in the fight against ISIS and the tensions with the regime.”

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Scott Lucas is Professor of International Politics at the University of Birmingham and editor-in-chief of EA WorldView. He is a specialist in US and British foreign policy and international relations, especially the Middle East and Iran. Formerly he worked as a journalist in the US, writing for newspapers including the Guardian and The Independent and was an essayist for The New Statesman before he founded EA WorldView in November 2008.

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