Syria Daily: Red Cross — Medical Evacuations Begin From Besieged East Ghouta

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Red Cross ambulances in East Ghouta near Damascus, December 27, 2017

Assad regime finally allows movements after months of refusal


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The Assad regime has finally permitted some medical evacuations from opposition-held, besieged East Ghouta near Syria’s capital Damascus.

The Red Cross said on Wednesday that, after months of appeals, the regime is allowing movement of around 500 patients, including children with cancer.

The pro-opposition Syrian American Medical Society said four patients were taken to hospitals in Damascus on Wednesday, with the remainder of 29 critical cases evacuated over coming days.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said on Sunday that Turkey was working with Russia to arrange the evacuation.

The regime has tightened its four-year siege and maintained bombardment of East Ghouta, despite a de-escalation zone agreed between Russia and rebels. Almost 400,000 residents are trapped, with tunnels closed by regime forces in March and the last crossing for supplies dismantled in July.

The UN has warned of “complete catastrophe” and repeatedly asked for transfer of the seriously ill, including to a hospital only 30 minutes away. It has said that more than 15 people have died from treatable medical conditions in recent weeks. Last week the UN’s humanitarian coordinator for Syria, Jan Egeland, summarized:

[The] number is going down, not because we are evacuating people but because they are dying. We have tried now every single week for many months to get medical evacuations out, and food and other supplies in.

The UN has also said that many people in East Ghouta face malnutrition, with up to 1,500 children at imminent risk.


Erdoğan: No Political Resolution with “Terrorist” Assad in Power

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has said no political resolution is possible with “terrorist” Bashar al-Assad remaining in power.

Erdoğan had toned down his long-standing call for Assad’s departure since Turkey began cooperating with Russia in summer 2016.

However, with the Assad regime walking out of the Geneva talks two weeks ago, Erdoğan returned to his tougher position, a televised news conference with his Tunisian counterpart in Tunis:

Assad is definitely a terrorist who has carried out state terrorism. It is impossible to continue with Assad. How can we embrace the future with a Syrian president who has killed close to a million of his citizens?

The Turkish President questioned if the regime will ever comply with de-escalation zones — formally endorsed by Russia, Turkey, and Iran — across Syria:

We can’t say [Assad] will handle this. It is impossible for Turkey to accept this [refusal]….There is no peace in Syria and this peace won’t come with Assad.


Kurdish Groups Insist on Attending Russia’s “National Congress” as Federal Entity

Syrian Kurdish groups have insisted that they should attend Russia’s proposed “national congress”, to be held in the southern Russian city of Sochi, as a federal entity.

A statement, which included the Syrian Kurdish Democratic Party (PYD), said the Kurds must attend under the federal umbrella and not as individual groups, “as we represent the political will of the entities and social forces in the region”.

Moscow has repeatedly delayed the congress, now scheduled for the end of January, in part because of Turkish objections to the presence of the PYD. Ankara considers the group to be part of the Turkish Kurdish insurgency PKK.

The Assad regime has rejected any recognition of Kurdish autonomy in a federal Syria.


Video: Latest Pro-Assad Attacks on Idlib Province

Pro-Assad forces are continuing their attacks on opposition-held southern Idlib and northern Hama Provinces. Despite proclaiming a de-escalation zone, Russia is supporting the assault, using the pretext that it is carrying out operations against the “terrorists” of the hardline Islamist bloc Hayat Tahrir al-Sham.

On Christmas Day, several people were reportedly killed in a displaced persons’ camp and other sites east of Idlib city.

Zeina Khodr of Al Jazeera English reports:

In northern Hama Province, rebels downed a regime L-39 warplane on Tuesday, hitting it with a MANPADS (man-portable air defense system). The pilot was killed.

In Moscow, the chief of the Russian General Staff, Army Gen. Valery Gerasimov, maintained the pretext for the assault despite the supposed de-escalation zone. He told the daily Komsomolskaya Pravda that next year’s developments in Syria will include “the completion of eliminating militants from Jabhat al-Nusra and its affiliates”:

Some members of this terrorist organization operate in de-escalation zone. Jabhat al-Nusra fiercely opposes [the ceasefire]. Therefore, they must be eliminated.

Gerasimov did not specify if this goal would entail Russian support for a pro-Assad offensive to regain control of Idlib Province, almost all of which has been held by the opposition since spring 2015.

The Assad regime has held out against any political resolution of the Syrian conflict until Idlib and other opposition areas are overrun.

Gerasimov also continued Moscow’s propaganda that the US has created training camps for former Islamic State and Jabhat al-Nusra fighters in eastern Syria: “According to satellite and other surveillance data, terrorist squads are stationed there. They are effectively training there.”

The Kremlin and Russian military have been pushing the unsupported claim in an effort to force a US withdrawal and end of support for the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces, which hold much of northern and eastern Syria. This would clear the way for pressure, including the prospect of a pro-Assad offensive, to force the SDF out of position which include oil and gas fields.

See Syria Daily, Dec 26: Russia’s Lavrov Attacks US and Kurdish-Led SDF

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4 COMMENTS

  1. “Qalaat Al Mudiq
    ‏ @QalaatAlMudiq
    56m56 minutes ago

    N. #Latakia: reports several rockets fired by Rebels were intercepted near #Russia|n Khmeimim Airbase.”
    .
    Looks like the rebels have got hold of several MANPADS. That they had a lucky hit yesterday and are trying near an air base today but the air base is protected.
    They need to take the MANPADS to an area that is being heavily attacked and is away from the defences around the airports. This way can utilise their weapons more efficiently.

  2. militants from Jabhat al-Nusra and its affiliates” in Idlibstan includes all grades of NATO-cornfed FSA JI-Joes, AAS, Zinki, etc., etc., which collaborate with JaN/HTS in fighting the Damascus government, so undoubtedly the answer is Yes, Rooskies [and Iran] will continue to assist Assad to completely eliminate the lot, by always ostensibly concentrating propaganda and fire on the one “most extreme” group at a time while effectively pressing the next “most extreme” through deliberate “collateral damage” to either compromise or flee. The process is then iterated until no significant “armed opposition” remains, at which point this fake “civil war” is mopped up.

    Taqqiya Tayyip has essentially traded them all in for Assad’s tacit consent to the imminent Turkish invasion of Afrin and a decent prospect of invading the rest of Rojava in cooperation with SAA if the SDF will not reach an accommodation with Assad, thus getting rid of the noxious Yanki presence which troubles both of them.

  3. https://uk.reuters.com/article/uk-mideast-crisis-syria-turkey/turkeys-erdogan-calls-syrias-assad-a-terrorist-says-impossible-to-continue-with-him-idUKKBN1EL0WW
    .
    TUNIS (Reuters) – Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan on Wednesday called Syrian President Bashar al-Assad a terrorist and said it was impossible for Syrian peace efforts to continue with him.
    .
    Looks like Erdogan has woken up and is just about to change sides again. The Israelis will soon have to defend the Golan Heights and Trump will have to do something that makes him appear to be a real president. Putin is up to his ears in muck and bullets and wants OUT. Iran will still keep trying to expand its empire! Everything is about to change again and 2018 will be anther violent, destructive year.

  4. “https://uk.reuters.com/article/uk-mideast-crisis-syria-turkey/turkeys-erdogan-calls-syrias-assad-a-terrorist-says-impossible-to-continue-with-him-idUKKBN1EL0WW
    “We can’t say (Assad) will handle this. It is impossible for Turkey to accept this. Northern Syria has been handed over as a terror corridor. There is no peace in Syria and this peace won’t come with Assad,” Erdogan said. !
    .
    Yep. Erdogan has woken up!!

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