PHOTO: White Helmets rescuers search for victims of Russian-regime bombing of opposition area of Aleppo city (Thaer Mohammed/AFP)
UPDATE 1745 GMT: UN envoy Staffan de Mistura has warned against Russian-regime devastation of Aleppo, while calling on jihadists to leave opposition areas.
De Mistura said history would judge the Assad regime and Russia if they used the presence of rebels as an “easy alibi” to level the area: “The bottom line is in a maximum of two months, two and a half months, the city of eastern Aleppo at this rate may be totally destroyed.”
At the same time, the envoy implicitly supported the Russian-regime line focusing on jihadists in the districts, referring to “about 900 former Nusra Front fighters” among 275,000 residents, 100,000 of them children.
Both Damascus and Moscow portray the situation in east Aleppo as one where the jihadists of Jabhat Fatah al-Sham, formerly Jabhat al-Nusra, control the neighborhoods. Russia has long demanded the “separation” of rebels from JFS?Nusra as a precondition for advance towards political resolution.
De Mistura addressed the former JFS/Nusra personnel: “If you did decide to leave, in dignity with your weapons, to Idlib or anywhere you wanted to go, I personally am ready, physically ready, to accompany you. I can’t guarantee more than my own personality and body.”
Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov quickly seized on De Mistura’s statement: “It’s high time.”
ORIGINAL ENTRY: France is launching a new initiative for a UN resolution mandating aid into Syria’s largest city Aleppo, amid intense Russian-regime bombing that has killed at least 500 civilians in the past two weeks.
Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault will travel to Russia and the US on Thursday and Friday to try to persuade both sides to adopt the resolution.
Ayrault said last week of any state which does not accept such a resolution: “If you’re complicit in war crimes then one day you will be held accountable, including legally. I think with the Russians you have to speak the truth and not try to please them.”
The former Prime Minister said he would also ask Washington to be “more efficient and engaged” and not step back just because of November’s Presidential elections.
Despite Washington’s declaration earlier this week that it is limiting co-operation with Russia because of the bombing, US Secretary John Kerry spoke with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Wednesday about topics which included Syria.
State Department spokesman Mark Toner said, “It would be irresponsible for us, given what’s happening in Aleppo, not to touch base with Foreign Minister Lavrov periodically.”
“Russians Have Opposed Every Single Dot of Resolution”
Despite the ongoing contacts, It appears doubtful that the French effort will have any success overcoming Russian opposition.
The Security Council began negotiations on Monday on the draft, prepared by France and Spain, which also includes a demand “put an end to all military flights over the city”.
Russia and the Assad regime rejected Kerry’s call for a suspension two weeks ago — days after they attacked a UN aid convoy and renewed attacks on Aleppo city.
The draft also asks UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to propose options for U.N.-supervised monitoring of a truce and threatens to “take further measures” in the event of non-compliance by “any party to the Syrian domestic conflict”.
Moscow’s UN Ambassador Vitaly Churkin said on Monday that he was engaged in discussions about the draft text even if he was not especially enthusiastic about its language. However, a “senior Security Council diplomat” said: “In the experts’ negotiations they (Russia) have opposed every single dot and comma of the resolution.”
French officials said that they will table the draft resolution even if Russia opposes it, forcing a Russian veto which would demonstrate its complicity with the Assad regime.
“It’s all that’s left,” said a French diplomatic source. “We’re not fools. The Russians aren’t going to begin respecting human rights from one day to the next, but it’s all we have to put pressure on them.”
Syrian Military: Leave East Aleppo or Face “Inevitable Fate”
The regime military appeared to make a concession early Wednesday with a statement that it was reducing airstrikes and shelling of opposition areas of Aleppo to ease the humanitarian situation and allow people to leave.
However, later in the day, the Syrian army toughened the line with the assurance that anyone who remained would face an “inevitable fate”.
The army said it had cut off supply lines and had accurate information about the location of rebel positions and arms stores.
Regime Helicopters Knock Out Another Hospital, Kill Doctor and Nurse
Regime helicopters have knocked another hospital out of service, this time in southern Syria.
A doctor and a nurse were killed in al-Hameh, west of Damascus, when the hospital was barrel-bombed.
Pro-Assad forces have been stepping up attacks on the towns of al-Hameh and Qudsaya in an attempt to force surrenders by residents.
Islamic State Kills At Least 25 in Bombing on Turkish Border
The Islamic State has killed at least 25 people and wounded dozens at a crossing on the Turkish border and west of ALeppo.
Most of the casualties at the Atmeh crossing were Syrian rebels, primarily from the Faylaq al-Sham faction.
Faylaq al-Sham’s security officials said a suicide bomber posed as a civilian wanting to use the crossing.
Claimed image of the casualties:
Video has also been posted of the dead.
Violations Documentation Center Reports 1,161 Deaths of Civilians in September
The Violations Documentation Center, a leading organization in the documentation of deaths in Syria’s conflict, reports that it confirmed 1,559 fatalities in September, of which 1,161 were civilians.
Of the deaths, almost half — 732 — were in Aleppo Province. There were 257 casualties in Idlib Province and 141 in Daraa Province in southern Syria.
Among the dead were 266 children and 125 women.
The VDC also tracked 111 breaches of the ceasefire, arranged by the US and Russia, from 12 to 19 September. All but two were by pro-Assad forces — 96 by the Syrian and Russia militaries and 13 by Hezbollah.