PHOTO: Aftermath of a Russian airstrike on a market in Aleppo city, late November 2015



Analysis: The Truth About US Contacts with Assad Regime

The Russian air force has denied that it has killed more than 1,000 civilians and destroyed infrastructure and public sites in its three-month bombing campaign inside Syria.

The head of the Russian Air and Space Forces, Colonel General Viktor Bondarenko, told State TV channel Rossiya 24, “I want to say this with dignity. Not a single time did my pilots hit any ‘no-go’ sensitive targets such as schools, hospitals, mosques or holy sites.”

NGOs and local activists have documented Russia’s mass killing of civilians and destruction of facilities including hospitals, schools, markets, bakeries, aid trucks, a water treatment plant, a grain silo, and a mosque in opposition-held areas.

A report by Amnesty International last week documented six Russian airstrikes that killed more than 200 civilians in Homs, Idlib, and Aleppo Provinces. Amnesty concluded, “The attacks may have violated international humanitarian law and may, in some circumstances, constitute war crimes.”

See Syria Feature: Possible “War Crimes” as Russia Kills 100s in Airstrikes, Then Lies About Them

Medicins Sans Frontieres and Physicians for Human Rights have said that a dozen medical centers have been struck by the Russians since September 30, while the site Bellingcat has used geolocation to refute Moscow’s denials of strikes on a school, a bakery, a mosque, and a hospital.

See Syria Daily, Dec 21: Another Sunday, Another Mass Killing by Russia’s Warplanes
Syria Feature: Russia Kills Scores in Latest Attacks on Markets
Syria Feature: Russia’s Aerial Victory — 80% Aid Cut, 260,000 Displaced, Infrastructure Damaged

However, Bondarenko insisted that all attacks are “carefully prepared by the Russian reconnaissance specialists working with the Syrian Army”. State outlet RT adds, “Amnesty’s report was based on witness accounts and footage and pictures published online, but the group didn’t sent its own investigators to Syria.”

Reports: Kurds & Dissident Group Attack Rebels in Northern Aleppo Province

Local sources claims that Kurdish forces and a dissident faction have broken a ceasefire and attacked rebels in northwest Aleppo Province, threatening the Turkish crossing at Bab al-Salman and the border town of Azaz.

The sources say that the Jaish al-Thuwar faction and Kurdish militia struck near Azaz, ending a truce arrange earlier this month.

Meanwhile, the Islamic State has regained villages from the rebels in northeastern Aleppo Province, effectively pinning the rebel groups between the Kurdish-Jaish al-Thuwar attacks, ISIS, and the regime-Iranian-Hezbollah offensives, supported by Russian air cover, near Aleppo city.

The sources allege that the Kurds and Jaish al-Thuwar, led by former Washington favorite Jamal Maarouf, have received arms and ammunition from Russian helicopters.

They also project that the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces, who crossed to the west bank of the Euphrates River in northeastern Aleppo Province with the capture of Tishreen Dam last weekend, will advance on the town of Jarablus on the Turkish.

Turkey has previous warned the Kurds against such an advance, but sources speculate that the US has leaned on Ankara to take no action in response.

Video: Kurdish-Led Force’s Capture of Tishreen Dam from Islamic State

A report from Tishreen Dam in eastern Aleppo Province, captured by the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Force on Saturday from the Islamic State — footage includes troops finding five of the dam’s operators:

See also Syria Daily, Dec 27: Kurdish-led Force Captures Euphrates Dam from Islamic State

Scores Killed and Wounded by 3 Homs Bombs

State media says at least 14 people have been killed and 37 wounded by bombs in Homs city on Monday.

Local sources told Turkey’s Anadolu News Agency that at least 30 people were killed, with the toll expected to rise, when three bombs hit the Zahra district.

A suicide bomber detonated his explosive belt after a gunshot drew a crowd to a square, then a car bomb and an improvised explosive device were detonated.

Two weeks ago, the Islamic State claimed a car bomb that killed at least 16 people in the city.

The regime has declared complete control over Homs, the third-largest city in Syria, following the evacuation of rebels and their families from the last opposition-held district, al-Wa’er.

Evacuations Start in 3 Syrian Towns as Part of Autumn Deal

Buses arrived on Monday for evacuation of fighters and families from an opposition-held town in Damascus Province and two regime enclaves in Idlib Province in northwest Syria.

The transport is the start of the implementation of an autumn deal which brought ceasefires in Zabadani, northwest of Damascus, and the enclaves of al-Fu’ah and Kafraya, north of Idlib city.

Rebels and their families from Zabadani are being taken to Beirut Airport in Lebanon and then to Turkey. Meanwhile, about 300 regime fighters and their families in al-Fu’ah and Kafraya will go by land to the Turkish border and fly to Beirut.

The deal was reached in September, with regime ally Iran and rebel supporter Turkey brokering the UN-backed negotiations and the Red Cross agreeing to supervise the evacuations.

A Hezbollah-led offensive tried for more than two months to take over Zabadani, but was unable to break rebel resistance. In the northwest, the rebel coalition Jaish al-Fateh retaliated with the threat to overrun the long-surrounded enclaves.

Buses and ambulances in the center of Zabadani on Monday:


Moving one of the wounded: