The Geneva II “peace” conference resumes on Monday, but it has been overtaken by the deaths of hundreds in Syria as the regime attempts to change the military situation with bombing.
Weeks of aerial assaults continued, especially on and near Aleppo and on the Damascus suburb of Darayya. Scores were killed each day from the attacks, with the death toll approaching 200 across Syria on some days last week.
The Syrian military’s campaign continues to be more a sign of weakness rather than strength, with fears in the south that Damascus will be cut off from Daraa Province and in the northwest that it cannot shift the stalemate in Aleppo.
Thousands of civilians tried to flee the Aleppo attacks. Many are now on the Turkish-Syrian border, often without adequate food, shelter, and clothing; others were trapped inside the city as they tried to cross to regime-held neighborhoods.
Insurgents pressed their attacks on Aleppo Central Prison, occupying part of the complex and releasing hundreds of detainees before the Syrian military counter-attacked with tanks, artillery, and airstrikes.
Fighting continued between insurgents and the Islamic State of Iraq and as-Sham across northern and eastern Syria, with clashes between the Islamist faction Jabhat al-Nusra and ISIS in Deir Ez Zor Province over control of a gas plant, grain stores, and factories.
Meanwhile, Al Qa’eda rejected ISIS, after the Iraqi-led group refused for months to accept a ruling by Al Qa’eda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri saying that local people should decide Al Qaeda’s representative in Syria.
The international community expressed concern as the Assad regime missed a second deadline for handover of chemical weapons stocks, moving only 4% — rather than the promised 90% — out of the country.
There is no prospect of political advance at the resumed talks in Geneva. The opposition will not move from its insistence that President Assad step aside, while the regime delegation will avoid talks on the issue. Discussions on limited measures, such as local cease-fires and delivery of aid, have already been undermined by this weekend’s difficulties and violence in Homs.
The regime airstrikes will continue during the talks: with little prospect of pushing back the insurgency in most areas of Syria, Assad’s forces will ensure their positions in key cities through the widespread bombing of insurgent-held territory.
There are signs that the fighting between insurgents and ISIS is abating in northern Syria. If so, that will open up space for opposition fighters to press their campaigns against regime positions.
Meanwhile, in central and southern Syria, signs are of a slow erosion of Assad’s position, with latest insurgent victories in Hama Province and near Quneitra, close to the Golan Heights.
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