PHOTO: The Al-Quds Hospital in east Aleppo city, hit by Russian or regime missiles on April 27



A “Mini-Republic” in the North Struggles to Survive

The UN Commission of Inquiry has joined the calls of other UN officials for the Assad regime to be held accountable for its attacks on civilian sites, including hospitals.

The chairman of the Commission, Paulo Pinheiro, said on Wednesday:

Failure to respect the laws of war must have consequences for the perpetrators.

Until the culture of impunity is uprooted, civilians will continue to be targeted, victimized and brutally killed.

Although the Commission did not explicitly name the Assad regime or Russia, it cited recent attacks carried out by one or both. These included the missile strikes on the al-Quds Hospital in opposition-held east Aleppo city on April 27, killing 55 people and wounding 80; other attacks on nearby medical facilities; airstrikes on markets, bakeries, and a water station; and a May 5 attack on a refugee camp in Idlib Province that killed at least 28 people and injured 55.

See Syria Video: Russia-Regime Attack on Aleppo’s Al-Quds Hospital — New Footage and Testimony
Syria Feature: “War Crime” as 30+ Killed in Strike on Refugee Camp

All the attacks happened during a nominal “cessation of hostilities” declared on February 27. Both the regime and Russia stepped up airstrikes in and near Aleppo city from April 21, following gains of territory by rebels and the jihadists of Jabhat al-Nusra.

The UN’s head of humanitarian operations, Stephen O’Brien, said just after the attack on the Kamouna refugee camp that it could be a war crime and that the attacker must be “fully held to account for this absolutely abominable act”.

Russia’s Defense Ministry and the Assad regime have put out a series of shifting explanations, without evidence to claim that they did not carry out the attacks. These include blame on the US-led coalition, even though it does operate near Aleppo city; claims of Jabhat al-Nusra responsibility; assertions that hospitals and medicial facilities were struck last year and did not suffer further damage; and denials that their warplanes were in the area.

Since Russia’s aerial intervention on September 30, scores of civilian sites have been struck, including more than 30 medical facilities.

Rebels Claim Defeat of Pro-Assad Attacks Both North and South of Aleppo

Rebel outlets are claiming the defeat of another Iranian-led attack near Khan Tuman, close to the Aleppo-to-Damascus highway.

Rebels and the jihadists of Jabhat al-Nusra captured the town in a sudden offensive last Sunday. Since then, pro-Assad forces have tried to regain ground with little success.

The rebel outlets claimed more casualties among Iranian and Iranian-led foreign militias, following scores of deaths during the rebel capture of Khan Tuman.

See Iran Daily, May 11: Revolutionary Guards Withdraw Division From Syria After Defeat and Deaths

Rebels also say they have repelled pro-Assad forces, supported by airstrikes, near Handarat and a vital supply route north of Aleppo city. They say more than 30 troops were killed.

Pro-opposition Orient News reports from strategic high ground near Anadan:

A field report from near Khan Tuman:

Claimed footage of the pro-Assad Palestinian-Syrian group Liwa al-Quds retreating near Handarat:

Rebels in Handarat:

Top Iran Official: US, Saudi, & Turkish Generals Led Defeat of Our Forces in Syria

A leading official has blamed last week’s defeat of Iranian-led forces, supporting Syria’s Assad regime, on US, Saudi, and Turkish generals leading rebel factions.

Mohsen Rezaei, the Secretary of the Expediency Council, said the generals “specializing in special warfare” had led the takeover of Khan Tuman, near Aleppo, by rebels and the jihadists of Jabhat al-Nusra.

In their first admission of multiple casualties in Syria’s five-year conflict, the Revolutionary Guards have acknowledged the deaths of 13 troops and wounding of 21. A senior MP also said “five or six” soldiers were captured. A large but unknown number of Iranian-led foreign militia were also killed.

Rezaei, a former Revolutionary Guards commander, said that the rebels had received “weapons, ammunition, money and food from Turkey’s southern borders and its Iskenderun port” and that “Saudi Arabia and Qatar are providing aid to terrorists through the sea.

“Aleppo has now become a matter of prestige for Saudi Arabia and Turkey; hence, they are intervening there with full force. Aleppo, in fact, is the ultimate showdown between the resistance and invaders,” he claimed.

(Cross-posted from Iran Daily)

Regime Blocks 1st Red Cross Aid to Besieged Darayya Since November 2012

The Assad regime has suddenly revoked permission for the first aid to Darayya, southwest of Damascus, for the first time in 3 1/2 years.

The Red Cross confirmed on Twitter:

The Darayya local council claimed that a group of people was shelled as it waited for the convoy, killing two.

The head of the UN Task Force on Syrian aid, Jan Egeland, reacted:

Earlier, Red Cross spokesman Pawel Krysiek said, “This is the first ever humanitarian convoy to this town in the suburbs of Damascus since the beginning of the siege in November 2012.”

Five trucks organised by the Red Cross, the UN, and the Syrian Arab Red Crescent were to deliver baby milk and medical and school supplies.

The Red Cross’s Syria chief, Marianne Gasser, said the convoy was “the result of the very lengthy and difficult negotiations”.

However, both the Syrian National Coalition and the Darayya local council said in early afternoon that the convoy is still awaited.

The Assad regime allowed assistance into some besieged areas after a February 27 cessation of hostilities, but it refused UN requests for access to a number of locations last month, leading to a drop in aid.

Islamic State Advances in Eastern Homs, Closes on Key Regime Airbase

The Islamic State has continued its recent advance in eastern Homs Province, capturing a Syrian military position and closing on the key T-4 airbase.

Pro-regime outlets said ISIS captured the Muhajarah Base near the airport on Wednesday after battles with part of the Syrian Arab Army’s 525th 18th Tank Division in the eastern countryside of the Homs Governorate. A regime counter-attack failed after two hours in the evening.

The T-4 airbase is one of the regime’s largest and now also hosts Russian warplanes, including MI-28NE attack helicopters.

The Islamic State lost the historic city of Palmyra to pro-Assad forces in late March; however, this month it has captured both the al-Sha’ar and al-Mahr gas fields.

See See Syria Daily, May 9: Islamic State Takes More Gas Fields from Regime

As Inflation Rages, Regime Proclaims “Goods at Low Prices”

Despite inflation of almost 100%, the Assad regime is heralding a “Made in Syria Festival” which features “goods in low prices”.

State news agency SANA reports on the monthly festival hosted by the Damascus Chamber of Commerce, “with the participation of tens of national, industrial companies specialized in food, fashion, and cosmetic materials”.

Industry Minister Kamal Eddin Touma said:

The festival presents a message that the national economy and industry is in a stage of recovery….

[It] gathers all social actives where the customer meets the producer directly without any mediator to decrease the prices of all materials with big sales in a positive phenomenon that requires a support and encouragement from all.

Syria’s currency is collapsing, falling 12% in the past week to a new low of 645:1 vs. the US dollar. Before the uprising in March 2011, it stood at 47:1. GDP has contracting by about 15% each year.


Rebels Launch Offensive in Northern Homs, Take Village

Rebels have launched an offensive in northern Homs Province.

After forming a joint operations room, the rebel factions began attacks overnight. They have already taken the village of Zara, according to pro-opposition accounts.

Success would ease the regime pressure on an opposition-held pocket in northern Homs, including the town of Rastan, which has been bombarded and besieged since 2012.