In Damascus, as in Cairo, it has gone from euphoria to disappointment. And now in the Syrian capital, government newspapers describe the failed coup against Erdogan — enemy of President Bashar Assad — as a “conspiracy” organized by the Turkish leader to settle accounts with the Turkish Armed Forces.
“To humiliate the military commands and make them subordinate to the police (loyal to Erdogan),” wrote Al-Thawra. Whatever the case in Turkey, the reverberations of the failed coup will be felt quickly in the civil war ravaging Syria for the last five years. Damascus (and other Arab capitals) thinks that Erdogan, at least for a time, will be busy with the internal affairs of his country and, therefore, less engaged with the anti-Assad groups he financed and armed in the past five years. Those predictions will be tested on the ground very soon.
The crisis in Syria has entered a crucial phase in recent hours. Two days ago, the government army, the Lebanese Hezbollah fighters and other allied militia took over the last road link, the Castello Road, to the eastern sector of Aleppo, which had been in the hands of jihadists and rebels since 2012. It means that the anti-Assad camp has lost the only channel it had for restocking weapons and basic necessities.
Now the regular army troops surround the city, and they are about to begin a siege of the eastern part of Aleppo that will last weeks, maybe months. It will have a huge impact on the lives of perhaps 300,000 civilians still living in that part of town. (Damascus says there are fewer people living there because anyone who could flee the city or move across town has already done so.)
The loss of the Castello Road is certain, however, as confirmed by representatives of the rebel armed forces. They say they should have enough reserves of weapons, ammunition, food and medicines for two to three months. It is possible that in the coming weeks, after having strengthened its positions around the city and putting pressure on the opposing militias, Damascus will offer the jihadists and rebels to leave the city in order to avoid fighting house to house, which would ultimately have serious consequences, especially for the already overtaxed civilians.
At the moment, however, this hopeful possibility is far off, and the anti-Assad forces could decide to hold out to the bitter end in a futile attempt to deny victory to the government troops. The recapture of Aleppo, the second-largest city in Syria and until 2011 the economic capital of the country, would have a great significance for the central government, and it would open the way for retaking other territories. And losing the eastern districts of Aleppo would be a major and humiliating defeat for the opposition.
In the past 48 hours, there has been fighting around Aleppo, with the Islamist militants of Jaysh al-Nasr trying to break the siege in several places. But they have lost at least 16 men under fire from government artillery and heavy weapons, in addition to the bombings conducted by the Syrian and Russian aviation.
According to reports from the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (an anti-Assad NGO based in London), not independently verifiable, the government airstrikes on Sunday have killed at least 28 people, including five children and seven women. The U.S.-led, anti-ISIS air raids, this time, killed 15 in the town of Manbij and six others in the village of Tokhar. There were at least 100 civilian victims of the air raids of the Coalition of Manbij, where 50,000 inhabitants are hostage to ISIS militiamen using them as human shields.
For weeks, Manbij has been under attack by the “Syrian Democratic Forces,” an array of predominantly Kurdish armed groups, armed and financed by the United States. During the heavy fighting near the Tishreen Dam, near Kobane, the town a symbol of resistance to the Islamic State, Kurdish YPG fighters have killed 20 ISIS militiamen, including a commander, Abu Firas al-Safwani.
Further south, the tension remains strong close to the Syrian Golan Heights, occupied by Israel for 49, after a drone Sunday, apparently launched by Hezbollah, flew over the area during Israeli military exercises. Despite the three ground-to-air missiles launched by the Tel Aviv army, the remote-controlled aircraft returned to Syria without problems.
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