PHOTO: President Obama talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin at the APEC Economic Leaders’ Meeting in Lima, Peru on Sunday (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)
UPDATE 1715 GMT: The White Helmets civil defense organization says 27 people have been killed and more than 120 injured so far today by pro-regime attacks on eastern Aleppo city.
UPDATE 1635 GMT: Activists said on Sunday evening that one hospital is still functional in eastern Aleppo city, trying to cope with hundreds of injured.
The activists did not reveal the name or location of the hospital over fears that it would be bombed.
A medic who filmed the aftermath of the attack on the Omar Hospital described decapitated bodies on the hospital’s floor, children with bloodied faces, and screaming mothers searching for their families under the rubble: “Whatever I say I will not be able to describe the horror I am seeing.”
UPDATE 1615 GMT: Pro-Assad forces are also continuing their weeks-long bombardment of Douma, one of the largest opposition-controlled Damascus suburbs.
An attack which reportedly killed two girls and injured 10 other people:
The Assad regime is hoping to break resistance in the town, the center of the leading opposition faction Jaish al-Islam, which has been surrounded since late 2012.
Authorities in the East Ghouta area, which includes Douma, have announced the suspension of schools amid the bombing.
UPDATE 1315 GMT: Russian-regime bombing of eastern Aleppo city is continuing today — footage of rescue operations in the al-Qaterji area:
— AEJ خليل ้้้้้็็็็Ⓜ (@AEJKhalil) November 21, 2016
Journalist Rami Jarrah says a barrel bomb attack by regime helicopters damaged the Qaterji mosque, toppling the minaret and killing three people.
UPDATE 0725 GMT: The Local Coordination Committees documented the killing of another 66 people in and near Aleppo on Sunday.
More than 200 people have been killed in the last 72 hours in Russia-regime bombing and shelling.
The LCC said it recorded 97 deaths, including 20 children and six women, across Syria yesterday. Among the casualties were 15 near Damascus, with pro-Assad forces intensively bombarding suburbs for weeks, and 12 in Idlib Province.
Syrian State media said 10 people, including eight schoolchildren, died in rebel rocketing of western Aleppo city on Sunday. Another 59 people were injured, according to State news agency SANA.
A woman cries over her husband, killed by a Russian-regime cluster bomb in eastern Aleppo city:
— Ahmad Alkhatib (@AhmadAlkhtiib) November 21, 2016
Pro-Assad forces attacking in the Jabal Badro area, east of Aleppo city:
The BBC’s Riam Dalati pays tribute to a citizen journalist killed amid bombing and fighting in the Hanano area:
— Riam Dalati (@Dalatrm) November 20, 2016
UPDATE 0700 GMT: The Assad regime has rejected a UN proposal to end the fighting in Aleppo.
The UN initiative would allow the opposition to remain in control of eastern Aleppo city if rebel fighters withdraw.
Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem responded that “self-administration” would be “a reward for terrorists”:
We held talks Sunday morning with UN Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura and his delegation, and we expected to hear from him that a date was set for resuming the intra-Syrian dialogue, but we did not,” al-Moallem said in a press conference, adding that de Mistura focused on what he called “ideas” about eastern Aleppo.
We told him that we are in agreement about the need to get terrorists out of the eastern part of Aleppo, regardless of our differences about their numbers, but it makes no sense at all to leave 275,000 of our fellow citizens remain hostages by five or six or seven thousand militants. No government in the world would allow that.
Al-Moallem pointed out that de Mistura talked about “self-administration” in eastern Aleppo is which is categorically rejected.
— Kristina Dei 📡 (@2kdei) November 20, 2016
ORIGINAL ENTRY: President Obama has said that chaos in Syria could persist for “quite some time”, citing Russian and Iranian support for the Assad regime’s bombing and ground operations.
“I am not optimistic about the short-term prospects in Syria,” Obama said at a news conference in Peru:
Once Russia and Iran made a decision to back Assad and a brutal air campaign and essentially a pacification of Aleppo regardless of civilian casualties, children being killed or wounded, schools or hospitals being destroyed, then it was very hard to see a way in which even a trained and committed moderate opposition could hold its ground for long periods of time.
See also Syria Special: Obama’s Destiny
Obama said a “ceasefire” was needed but gave no indication of an American response. He said that he had concluded that the US did not have a legal basis for military involvement in Syria and that doing so would have been a “strategic mistake”, given the effort to stabilize Afghanistan and Iraq and the need to fight the Islamic State:
At this stage, we’re going to need a change in how all parties think about this in order for us to end the situation there. There’s no doubt that there will continue to be extremist forces in and around Syria because it’s still going to be in chaos for quite some time.
The US has withdrawn almost all support for military operations against the Assad regime and its allies. Instead, it is backing the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces with special forces, airstrikes, and weapons. In addition to focusing on efforts against the Islamic State, Washington is also pursuing operations to kill the leadership of the jihadists of Jabhat Fatah al-Sham, formerly known as Jabhat al-Nusra.
Obama Briefly Speaks With Putin
The President has largely followed Russia’s lead since he decided in autumn 2013 not to intervene against the Assad regime’s use of chemical weapons near Damascus, killing more than 1,400 people. The US formally suspended involvement in a political process with Moscow, following Russia’s bombing of besieged opposition areas in Aleppo that has killed almost 1,000 people since mid-September.
However, the Americans have conferred to speak with the Russians. Obama conferred for about four minutes with President Vladimir Putin on Sunday.
Afterwards, Obama said that he told Putin the US is deeply concerned about the bloodshed and chaos “sown by constant bombing attacks” by the Syrian and Russian militaries, and that a ceasefire and political transition were needed: “As usual I was candid and courteous but very clear about the strong differences we have on policy.”
Putin struck a far different note, saying at a separate news conference that he thanked the US President “for the years of joint work”: “I told him that we would be happy to see him (Obama) in Russia anytime if he wants, can and has desire.”