PHOTO: French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault — “We aren’t going to sit and do nothing” (Charles Platiau/Reuters)
UPDATE 1615 GMT: Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım has said an attack by the Assad regime, killing three Turkish troops in northern Syria, will “not be left unanswered“.
Yıldırım also vowed that Ankara will continue to support the rebel offensive taking ISIS-held territory and seeking the capture of the town of al-Bab in Aleppo Province.
He said the Turkish army’s determination to “clear the area of terrorists is unaffected” by the regime bombing: “
It is obvious that there are some who are unhappy with Turkey’s fight against Daesh.. But we will retaliate against this attack and other such attacks.
These attacks, wherever they come from, will not weaken the determination of Turkey and the Turkish Armed Forces. [The Euphrates Shield operation] safeguards the stability of Syria and the life, property, and security of Turkey.
Ten Turkish troops were injured in the attack, the first by the Assad regime’s air force on the Turkish-rebel offensive that began on August 24.
UPDATE 1615 GMT: Bilal Abdul Kareem of On the Ground News counters Moscow’s denials that it has attacked eastern Aleppo city, showing off an unexploded Russian ballistic missile.
Russia says they aren't in Aleppo massacres. OGN exposes them as Ballistic missile doesn't explode pic.twitter.com/f1EO2LmBIZ
— On the Ground News (@OgnNews) November 24, 2016
UPDATE 0830 GMT: Turkey says three of its soldiers have been killed and 10 wounded in what is believed to be a regime airstrike.
The attack was near the ISIS-held town of al-Bab in Aleppo Province. Turkish-supported rebels launched an offensive earlier this month to take the town, but could face competition from Kurdish militia and from regime forces.
A gag order has been imposed on Turkish media reporting any information beyond the military statement.
UPDATE 0825 GMT: Residents of eastern Aleppo city appeal to the world:
The speakers tell of 500,000 people killed across the country since March 2011, and at least 271,536 people trapped in eastern Aleppo city. In the last 23 days, there have been at least 2,300 documented strikes, including barrel bombs, artillery shells, cluster bombs, bunker-busting bombs, and chlorine attacks. Four hospitals, six schools, two bakeries, and the civil defense headquarters have been struck in the last week.
The residents say:
It has been almost six years and we are wondering what the world was doing. How many hospitals or schools does it take to see real actions against war crimes in Syria? It can’t get more gruesome than this.
Don’t look back years from now and wish that you can do something — you can still.
ORIGINAL ENTRY: Seeking to rally countries opposed to the continued rule of Syria’s President Assad, France has accused the regime and its allies like Russia of launching “total war” against opposition areas.
Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault told reporters after a Cabinet session on Wednesday that Paris would host a meeting of anti-Assad States soon: “Today one million people are besieged. Not just in Aleppo, but in Homs, Ghouta and Idlib, and that’s the reality of the situation in Syria.”
Ayrault said Russia and the Assad regime are exploiting the situation in the US, with President-elect Donald Trump expected to pull back from Syria’s 68-month conflict or even to join Russia in backing Assad: “France is taking the initiative to confront this strategy of total war by the regime and its allies, who are taking advantage of the current uncertainty in the United States.”
He did not give details of what a Paris meeting would consider. A diplomat said the talks will be in early December.
German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier supported the French position, telling Parliament:
Far too many people right now believe they can profit from the power vacuum after the U.S. elections and play the military card. We have to break through this logic. The talks on ceasefires and humanitarian aid must not stop during this period of transition in Washington.
It’s been proved that the regime and Islamic State have used chemical weapons so we now need sanctions and that’s the resolution we want at the U.N. The international community must stop turning a blind eye.
We aren’t going to sit and do nothing.
Since Russia and the Assad regime renewed a siege and bombing of opposition-held eastern Aleppo city this summer, France has led condemnation. Ayrault and Paris’s UN representatives have said that Moscow is “complicit” in the regime’s “war crimes”.
While US Ambassador Samantha Power also criticized Russian “barbarism”, Washington has continued discussions with Moscow and held back from a tough position against Assad.
Darayya Council Shuts Down After 4-Year Regime Siege and Attacks
The local council in Darayya, southwest of Damascus, has ended operations after capitulation to a four-year regime siege and attacks.
The council, founded in October 2102, thanked those involved in sustaining the town despite the “long and arduous…sacrifices, tragedies, and suffering”.
Rebels and their families left Darayya for Idlib Province in northwest Syria in late August. Pro-Assad forces had taken part of the town, including the vegetable plots providing some food amid the siege, and were threatening to overrun the rest.
Report: Egypt Sends Air Support Unit to Syria
Egypt has sent a military air support unit to Syria in preparation for a large deployment in early 2017, according to pro-Assad regime Lebanese daily As-Safir.
Earlier this week Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El Sisi publicly confirmed support for the regime military, following photographs of supplies and arms from Cairo to Assad forces.
“Well-informed Arab sources” told As-Safir on Thursday that the Egyptian army sent a unit of 18 helicopter pilots to Hama airbase on November; however, they said it was “unclear whether they have begun taking part in aerial operations”.
After 68 months of conflict, the Syrian military has only 50 Russian-made Mil Mi-8 helicopters still in operation — half of its original supply —- while Egypt has 60 of the aircraft, according to As-Safir.
An unnamed source told the newspaper that a large deployment of Egyptian troops will arrive in Syria in late January to take part in military operations “not limited to air support at Hama airbase”.
Report: Hezbollah Has 1st Direct Meeting With Russian Officers
Hezbollah military officials have directly met Russian officers for the first time, according to the pro-Hezbollah Lebanese outlet al-Akhbar.
“Less than a week ago, Aleppo witnessed the first direct meeting between Hezbollah field commanders and Russian army officers,” al-Akhbar reported Thursday.
The daily claimed that the gathering “came at the request of the Russians” who were impressed by Hezbollah’s military performance repelling a rebel offensive in western Aleppo city in late October: “The meeting was attended by high-ranking Russian officers, who paid tribute to [Hezbollah’s] capabilities.”
Previous contact between the Russians and Hezbollah came through representatives in joint operations rooms in Baghdad and Damascus that include Syrian, Iranian, and Iraqi military officials.