PHOTO: Aftermath of regime attack on Kamal al-Jabal district on Sunday
- Iran: US Airstrikes on Assad Forces Were Deliberate
- Video: Full Interview with JFS/Nusra Leader al-Joulani
- Rebels Warn Against Forced Evacuation of al-Wa’er in Homs
- Denmark: We Took Part in US-Led Strike That Killed Assad Troops
- US: We Informed Russia in Advance About Attack That Hit Assad Forces
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UPDATE 1945 GMT: The aid trucks hit by regime “double tap” airstrikes near Aleppo tonight (see 1800 GMT) appears to have been a UN and Syrian Arab Red Crescent convoy:
— OCHA Syria (@OCHA_Syria) September 19, 2016
The trucks were hit as they were being unloaded at the warehouses at Big Orem.
The Red Crescent director in the Aleppo area was among the 20 victims of the attack. A source says another 11 Crescent personnel have been killed.
Same source: bodies of the SARC employees are still burning inside the cars. No one can reach them due to incessant air raids on same area
— Elizabeth Tsurkov (@Elizrael) September 19, 2016
Footage of the fire set off by the airstrikes:
— Riam Dalati (@Dalatrm) September 19, 2016
Meanwhile, hospitals in opposition-held east Aleppo city are treating other casualties:
— SAMS (@sams_usa) September 19, 2016
— Jake Godin (@JakeGodin) September 19, 2016
UPDATE 1900 GMT: The Assad regime, trying to present itself as responding to attacks, has instead unwittingly exposed its own breach of the ceasefire.
The slip occurs in an article by State news agency SANA that proclaims “Dozens of Terrorists Killed in Northern Hama and Southern Aleppo“.
Trying to cover up its Sunday attack on rebels on the front southwest of Aleppo city (see original entry), the article asserts, “Army units killed ISIS terrorists in the surrounding of the Air Force Academy in Aleppo countryside and destroyed three vehicles.”
The Islamic State has not been present in Aleppo city or to the southwest since 2014. Instead, it is the rebel bloc Jaish al-Fatah that took took the Air Force Academy in early August, before it was regained by pro-Assad forces with Russian airstrikes a month later.
UPDATE 1800 GMT: Reports indicate that intense pro-Assad bombing has resumed across Aleppo Province, including an attack on aid trucks and rescue workers.
Residents said “bombs are falling like rain”.
Reports that airstrikes targeted aid convoy near #Aleppo, and then targeted the White Helmets who went to their aid in a 'double tap'.
— Emma Beals (@ejbeals) September 19, 2016
More than 20 aid trucks meant for besieged Aleppo set on fire by regime air strikes on Big Orem Rd. in rural Aleppo.
— هادي العبدالله Hadi (@HadiAlabdallah) September 19, 2016
— Charles Lister (@Charles_Lister) 19 September 2016
UPDATE 1630 GMT: Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has pointed to a significant push in the Turkish-rebel offensive in northern Syria, declaring an objective to control 5000 square km (about 1800 square miles).
Erdoğan said the Turkish-rebel force will advance on the town of al-Bab, northeast of Aleppo city.
Al-Bab is the Islamic State’s main position in Aleppo Province, following the loss of Manbij to the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces in late July.
On August 24, Turkey began airstrikes and sent in tanks and special forces to support rebels who quickly captured the town of Jarablus and surrounding areas along the Turkish-Syrian border from the Islamic State.
The Turkish-rebel offensive also moved south to take territory from the SDF, advancing to the Sajur River but stopping short of Manbij.
Before his departure for the UN General Assembly meeting in New York, Erdoğan said:
Jarablus has been finished. Are the residents [of Jarablus] turning back in joy? They are. Likewise, al-Rai [west of Jarablus] has been also cleansed. Now we are going down as far as al-Bab….
We need to rid these places from being a threat to us.
Turkey has declared an intention of securing a 98-km (61-mile) “safe haven” from Azaz to Jarablus along the border.
Erdoğan’s declaration points to a zone which is 50 km (31-mile) deep. Al-Bab is 30 km (18 miles) from al-Rai.
“As part of the Euphrates Shield Operation, an area of 900 square km has been cleared of terror so far. We are pushing this line to the south now,” Erdoğan said. “We may evaluate this area as a total of 5,000 square km as part of a safe zone.”
Erdoğan indicated a continuing campaign not only against the Islamic State, but also against the Kurdish militia YPG, which leads the SDF. Turkey says the YPG, the military arm of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (PYD), is linked to the Turkish Kurdish insurgency PKK:
With various operations, first Daesh [the Islamic State] left the areas it conquered here to the PYD and YPG. They [the Kurdish militia] started at the easternmost point. They came along [to the west]. The aim is to unite with Afrin [in northwest Syria] and through this, reach the Mediterranean.
If al-Bab is taken, it will also put the Turkish-rebel force close to regime frontlines. Some observers believe the offensive could push as far as the northeastern suburbs of Aleppo city, near the Assad Infantry School and the Sheikh Najjar industrial area.
UPDATE 1615 GMT: Russia and the Syrian army indicated that they will no longer abide by the ceasefire when it expires on Monday night, calling it “pointless”.
In a televised briefing, Russian Lieutenant General Sergei Rudskoy signaled that Assad regime troops can resume attacks:
Syrian servicemen and peaceful citizens are still dying. The cause of this is the fact the United States has no effective leverage to influence Syria’s opposition and is unaware of the real situation on the ground.
Considering that the conditions of the ceasefire are not being respected by the rebels, we consider it pointless for the Syrian government forces to respect it unilaterally.
Russia’s Defense Ministry said — again, without providing evidence — that it had registered 53 ceasefire violations in the past 24 hours.
A statement by the Syrian military announced the “end of the freeze on fighting” under the US-Russian agreement:
It was assumed that the ceasefire would present a real chance to end the bloodshed, but terrorist groups did not adhere to any of the points of the agreement on a ceasefire. The number of violations on their part has exceeded 300.
President Assad said, as he met Iran’s Deputy Foreign Minister Hossein Jaberi Ansari, “The sides that are hostile to Syria are depleting all their energies and resources to maintain the terrorist war.”
US Secretary of State John Kerry offered a far different view when he was asked if the ceasefire was holding: “It was quite good last night, trucks are moving, let’s see how it goes today.”
ORIGINAL ENTRY: A six-day ceasefire appeared to be collapsing across parts of Syria on Sunday, as President Assad’s air force bombed several areas — including the city of Aleppo for the first time during the truce — and the Syrian military and rebels fought on two fronts.
Monday is the day of decision for the US to develop its plan with Russia further, confirming whether it will proceed with a plan for intelligence-sharing on airstrikes against the Islamic State and the jihadists of Jabhat al-Fatah, formerly Jabhat al-Nusra.
Washington has said that the Joint Implementation Center is dependent upon a successful ceasefire.
There is also no sign of delivery of aid, the supposed aim of the US-Russian initiative. The Assad regime continues to hold up two convoys, of 20 trucks each, which have sought to move from Turkey to eastern Aleppo city.
The deadliest attack was on Dael in Daraa Province in southern Syria, where barrel-bombing killed 10 people and wounded dozens.
Graphic video showed treatment of the wounded.
There were also strikes on Ghanto in Homs Province. Damage in a school near the site of the attacks:
Activists also report ground assaults by pro-Assad forces on the front southwest of Aleppo, trying to move farther into the 1070 housing complex.
Pro-Assad forces, enabled by regime bombing, recaptured the nearby artillery base and air force college to re-impose a siege on opposition areas of Aleppo. However, they were still unable to move beyond a corner of the 1070 complex.
Intense clashes were also reported in the Jobar district in Damascus, where the regime’s air and ground forces have tried to defeat rebels since 2012.
Activists said rebel faction repelled both assaults.
Video: Full Interview with JFS/Nusra Leader al-Joulani
Al Jazeera Arabic’s full interview, with English subtitles, with the leader of the jihadists of Jabhat Fatah al-Sham (formerly Jabhat al-Nusra), Abu Mohammad al-Joulani:
In the interview, broadcast on Saturday night, Joulani addressed the US-Russian deal for ceasefires and military cooperation, declaring that Washington, Moscow, and the UN are “in line with Assad’s policy”.
He said that the US and Russia were aiming for the Syrian opposition’s surrender, and accused the UN of pursuing a methodical policy for the defeat of Aleppo, Syria’s largest city, by the Assad regime.
In reality, this is an attempt to humiliate the people of Aleppo. It suggests their insignificance….
The issue of the revolution of the people of Syria is that of a revolution, values, Islam. It is a matter of religion and protecting the Sunnis. It is not a matter of infant milk and foodstuffs that would be delivered to Aleppo at a particular point in time.
The JFS/Nusra leader said that there were “advanced” unity negotiations betweeen JFS/Nusra and rebel factions but that differences remain between some groups.
At the same time, Joulani emphasized JFS — which formally renounced allegiance to Al Qa’eda with its realignment in late July — is a “Syrian” group pursuing legitimacy, emphasizing institutions for governance which are separate from military operations.
Iran: US Airstrikes on Assad Forces Were Deliberate
A senior Iranian official has declared that Saturday night’s US-led airstrikes on the Assad regime’s forces in eastern Syria were intentional.
“We strongly denounce the US measures, and do not believe that it was a military mistake,” said Hossein Amir-Abdollahian — an advisor to Speaker of Parliament Ali Larijani and former Deputy Foreign Minister — as he met Syria’s Ambassador Adnan Hassan Mahmoud on Sunday.
The US has said that the airstrikes, which killed at least 62 troops, were a “failure of intelligence” as regime forces battled the Islamic State on a mountain in Deir ez-Zor Province. The American military said it informed Russia — the Assad regime’s main backer, along with Iran — of the intended attack.
However, Abdollahian maintained that the US will do anything to weaken Syria’s morale and boost “terrorist groups”: “Attacking an army which is battling terrorism means backstabbing and helping Daesh [the Islamic State].”
Opposition and Rebels Warn Against Forced Evacuation of al-Wa’er in Homs
Rebels have warned the regime against a forced evacuation of al-Wa’er, the last opposition-held district in Homs.
The Governor of Homs Province said on Sunday that several hundred rebels would be evacuated today.
Plans were for about 200 residents — mostly the sick and their families — to be removed on Monday morning and transferred to opposition-held Idlib Province in northwest Syria. But pro-opposition sources said the convoys were postponed to the evening or Tuesday morning, because of lack of guarantees of the safety of the route and because the UN refused to participate in any forced evacuation.
And, they claim, a very strong message in the form of an aid delivery consisting of coffins, body bags, towels and soap brought by SARC…
— Emma Beals (@ejbeals) September 19, 2016
Meanwhile, rebels said they would not depart. The Free Syrian Army and Syrian National Coalition said in a statement that “forced sectarian cleansing would render the ceasefire [to be] no more than words”.
Citing the example of the Damascus suburb of Darayya, which surrendered in late August after 45 months of siege and bombardment, the FSA said any agreement brought through bullying, starvation, and bombing is “null and void”. It called on the international community to establish a protected zone in al-Wa’er, where an estimated 50,000 to 80,000 people remain.
Footage of the removal of residents on Monday:
People wait for transfer:
The Syrian military has besieged al-Wa’er since 2013, when other opposition areas of Homs were reoccupied. A truce was reached in December 2015, but implementation has stalled over conditions for the removal of both residents and rebels.
Last month, the opposition council in al-Wa’er said that an agreement had been reached in principle, but that the Assad regime was still considering the conditions.
The military situation in Homs Province — Artur Rosinski’s map:
Denmark and Britain: We Took Part in US-Led Strike That Killed Assad Troops
The Danish Government has said that its F-16 fighter jets took part in a US-led coalition airstrike which accidentally killed at least 62 regime troops on Saturday.
An official statement said the incident would be investigated.
Russia said that two F-16s carried out the attack, near a frontline between the Syrian military and the Islamic State in eastern Syria.
Britain’s Defence Ministry also said that it had taken part:
We can confirm that the UK participated in the recent coalition air strike in Syria … on Saturday, and we are fully co-operating with the coalition investigation.
The UK would not intentionally target Syrian military units.
On Sunday, Australia acknowledged that it was involved in the strike.
US: We Informed Russia in Advance About Attack That Hit Assad Forces
The US military repeated on Sunday that it informed Russia about the attack, countering Moscow’s accusations that the Americans were supporting the Islamic State with the strikes.
Officials said US military personnel in Qatar told the Russians about 30 minutes in advance about the plan to attack an area where several dozen individuals, a tank, and other military gear were present. The Russians said nothing to indicate the presence of regime troops until they called about 20 minutes into the assault, when the operation was immediately aborted.
The Russian Defense Ministry said, soon after the revelation that regime soldiers had been hit:
If the airstrike was caused by the wrong coordinates of targets, then it’s a direct consequence of the stubborn unwillingness of the American side to coordinate with Russia in its actions against terrorist groups in Syria.
Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova added, “We are reaching a really terrifying conclusion for the whole world: That the White House is defending Islamic State. Now there can be no doubts about that.”
On Sunday, the Foreign Ministry softened the accusation while still maintaining pressure:
The actions of coalition pilots — if they, as we hope, were not taken on an order from Washington — are on the boundary between criminal negligence and connivance with Islamic State terrorists.
We strongly urge Washington to exert the needed pressure on the illegal armed groups under its patronage to implement the ceasefire plan unconditionally. Otherwise the implementation of the entire package of the U.S.-Russian accords reached in Geneva on September 9 may be jeopardized.