PHOTO: Rebel fighter takes a girl away from the captured Dahiyat al-Assad district of western Aleppo on Sunday (Ammar Abdullah/Reuters)



The Dreaded Green Buses

UPDATE 2215 GMT: Amnesty International has called on rebels to avoid “indiscriminate attacks on civilian areas” in their offensive in western Aleppo city.

“The goal of breaking the siege on eastern Aleppo does not give armed opposition groups a license to flout the rules of international humanitarian law by bombarding civilian neighborhoods in government-held areas without distinction,” said Samah Hadid, the Deputy Director of Campaigns at Amnesty’s Beirut regional office.

Amnesty did not offer any evidence documenting rebel attacks but merely cited the unconfirmed claims of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights that up to 48 people, including 17 children have been killed in civilian areas of regime-held districts.

The organization also quoted the Assad regime’s claims of a rebel “toxic gas” attack on the Hamdaniya and Dahiyat al-Assad areas.

Amnesty did not cite local sources who said that it was the Syrian military’s helicopters who dropped chlorine canisters in barrel bombs, with the wind carrying the gases in to Hamdaniya. Nor did it explain why rebels would use gas on Dahiyat al-Assad, when they occupied most of the district on Saturday.

UPDATE 1010 GMT: Pro-opposition accounts claim a second chlorine attack in two days, this time on the Rashidin area of Aleppo (see map).

Rashidin is just to the north of Hamdaniyah, where civilians were affected by Sunday’s attack, and the frontlines of fighting between rebels and pro-Assad forces.

UPDATE 0930 GMT: Opposition activists say another attempt by pro-Assad forces to retake the village of Minyan has failed.

The activists said rebels captured a T-55 tank.

Rebels took the village, near the Hamdaniya and New Aleppo districts, on Saturday. The Syrian military claimed yesterday that they had regained control, but rebels said last night that attacks had been repelled.

ORIGINAL ENTRY: Pro-Assad forces tried to hold their lines in Aleppo on Sunday, the second day of a rebel offensive which is seeking to break the siege of opposition areas of Syria’s largest city.

Foreign allies and elements of the Syrian military withstood an assault by rebels on the 3000 Housing Complex (see map), preceded by heavy shelling. However, they appeared to be in danger of losing their last buildings in the neighboring 1070 Housing area, following another large vehicle bomb.

Clearing the last buildings would give rebels control over a road leading to the 3000 Housing Complex, assisting further assaults.

The Syrian military claimed that it had recaptured the village of Minyan, taken by rebels on Saturday. However, rebel factions said last night that they were still in control of the village, west of the New Aleppo district.

Despite an attempted regime counter-attack, rebels still hold almost all of the Dahiyat al-Assad district, taken on Saturday. It is the first time in the 4 1/2-year battle for Aleppo that the opposition controls the large neighborhood.

Regime forces defending on Sunday:

The scale of the regime’s concern was shown on Sunday by the movement of units from northern Hama Province, where pro-Assad forces have been trying to push back a rebel offensive from late August, to the western Aleppo frontlines. Rebels claimed that they hit a second convoy in two days, destroying more military vehicles.

The concern may also have demonstrated by the use of chlorine on the frontlines in the 3000 and 1070 complexes.

Local sources said the chlorine was dropped by helicopters in barrel bombs. They added that wind had carried chlorine gas into the nearby Hamdaniya district.

Syrian State media said more than 35 people were injured by the gas. They asserted that rebel had fired “toxic shells”.

UN Envoy “Shocked” by Rebel Offensive

The UN envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura, has said he is “appalled and shocked” by rebel use of rockets during their offensive west of Aleppo.

De Mistura said: “Those who argue that this is meant to relieve the siege of eastern Aleppo should be reminded that nothing justifies the use of disproportionate and indiscriminate weapons, including heavy ones, on civilian areas and it could amount to war crimes.”

The envoy made no reported comment about the Russian-regime siege of opposition areas of Aleppo, with about 275,000 civilians, or about bombing and attacks by pro-Assad forces this autumn.

UN Extends Chemical Inspectors’ Mandate by 2 Weeks

In a compromise, the UN Security Council has voted to extend the mandate of chemical weapons inspectors by two weeks.

Most diplomats had wanted a longer extension, but Russia threatened to block any renewal unless it covered the supposed use of chemical weapons by “terrorists” outside Syria.

The team from the UN and Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons have found the Assad regime responsible for three chlorine attacks in northwest Syria, as well as blaming the Islamic State for using mustard agent.

France’s U.N. Ambassador Francois Delattre said the mandate extension was only a first step.

“As we all know there are more cases of chemical weapons use in Syria. And so it is absolutely critical that the JIM [Joint Investigative Mechanism] later gets a one-year mandate to continue its investigation. We consider it very important,” Delattre said.

Earlier this week, Russia’s Ambassador Vitaly Churkin dismissed the latest finding of an Assad attack as “full of contradictions” and “unconvincing”.

Dozens of Rebels Killed in Ambush in Daraa Province

Dozens of rebels have been killed by a pro-Assad ambush in Daraa Province in southern Syria.

The rebels were trying to move into an abandoned battalion base near the town of Ibtaa on Sunday morning. However, they were unexpectedly met by heavy gunfire.

Photographs on social media showed a row of bodies.

The Southern Front rebel bloc has struggled since significant gains in spring 2015. It has been plagued by in-fighting and by a cut-off in support from a US-led operations center in Amman, Jordan.