Pro-Assad forces and Turkish-rebel offensive clash in northwest Syria, northeast of Aleppo city


Clashes between Assad regime and Turkish-rebel forces began in northwest Syria on Sunday, as both sides faced each other after victories against the Islamic State.

The Syrian army said it captured the town of Tadef, just south of the city of al-Bab in Aleppo Province, after an ISIS withdrawal yesterday.

The Turkish-rebel “Euphrates Shield” offensive — which began last August with Turkey’s intervention with airstrikes, armored vehicles, and ground forces — occupied al-Bab, ISIS’s last major position in the province, last week.

A pro-opposition activist reported that fighting already began on Sunday,

The Euphrates Shield operations room later said 22 pro-Assad forces had been killed

A Russian official had said earlier this month that Tadef, northeast of Aleppo city, was the agreed dividing line between the Assad regime and Turkish-rebel territory. Russia and Turkey agreed last summer to a de facto partition, in which Ankara would accept the pro-Assad re-occupation of all of Aleppo city and Moscow would accede to the Turkish-rebel drive against ISIS through Aleppo Province.

The Assad regime is not only trying to draw a line against a further southwards move by the Turkish-rebel offensive but also to regain control of water supplies for Aleppo city.

TOP PHOTO: Claimed images of pro-Assad forces near Aleppo city

White Helmets Film Wins Academy Award

A film on Syria’s White Helmets rescuers has won the Oscar for Best Short Documentary.

The 40-minute White Helmets follows the group’s volunteers as they pull people from the rubble of a building flattened by pro-Assad bombing.

Accepting the Academy Award, director Orlando von Einsiedel urged the audience to rise and call for an end to Syria’s six-year civil war. They responded with a standing ovation.

Von Einsiedel read out a statement from White Helmets founder Raed al-Saleh:

We are so grateful that this film has highlighted our work to the world. Our organisation is guided by a verse from the Qur’an: to save one life is to save all of humanity.

“We have saved more than 82,000 Syrian lives. I invite anyone here who hears me to work on the side of life to stop the bloodshed in Syria and around the world.

More than 150 rescuers have been killed by pro-Assad bombing — much of it in “double tap” attacks targeting the volunteers — since the organization was founded in 2013.

The film’s cinematographer Khaled Khatib was unable to attend the ceremony after being barred from entering the United States, despite being granted a visa.

US officials cited unspecified “derogatory information”. It is unknown whether that information came from the Assad regime.

A short video on the work of The White Helmets:

Opposition Demands Talks on Transition in Geneva Discussions

The opposition demanded talks on political transition on Sunday, the fourth day of the discussions in Geneva involving the regime and the opposition-rebel bloc.

Opposition delegates also called on the UN to ensure a substantive ceasefire, as pro-Assad airstrikes continued throughout Syria.

“Our hopes are not high, given the incidents on the ground and the continuous violations by the regime forces and its backers of the ceasefire,” said Mutasem Alysoufi of The Day after Syria campaign.

Pro-regime airstrikes throughout the weekend killed dozens of people in the Damascus suburbs, the al-Wa’er district of Homs, and Idlib Province in northwest Syria.

The opposition-rebel bloc in Geneva wants continued pursuit of a transitional governing authority, a tenet of international proposals since 2012. However, President Assad has made clear that he will not accept a transition in which he leaves power.

Alysoufi said he did not believe the regime delegation, led by UN Ambassador Bashar Ja’afari, wants to engage in serious talks: “[The regime is] gaining more time and continuing their military strategy on the ground.”

UN envoy Staffan de Mistura gave a working paper on procedure to both sides on Friday. He met yesterday with the opposition-rebel High Negotiations Committee and with two “opposition” factions favored by Russia.

Claimed footage of pro-Assad attacks, reportedly including incendiary bombs, on Douma near Damascus on Sunday:

White Helmets carry out rescue operations in Ariha in Idlib Province, where 11 people were reportedly killed: