Aleppo: a pause for aid

by our Arab Affairs correspondent

RUSSIAN and Syrian guns will fall silent in Aleppo this week for a brief ceasefire to allow humanitarian aid into the terrorist-held pocket in the city and to allow civilians and any rebels who wish to surrender to leave. Meanwhile the Syrian army and its Russian, Lebanese and Iranian allies are readying for an influx of thousands of ISIS terrorists fleeing from the Iraqi city of Mosul, which is under heavy attack from the Iraqi army that has vowed to drive the terrorist militia out of the key city they have occupied since 2014.

Some 25,000 Iraqi troops have launched an operation to liberate Mosul, the second largest city in Iraq, from ISIS terrorists. The Iraqi Army is being supported by US commandos and backed by Kurdish Peshmerga fighters. Turkey announced that it would also take part in the operation.

Iraqi troops backed by US Special Forces, and the Kurdish Peshmerga militias are advancing on Mosul, the last major ISIS stronghold in the country. Turkish troops, who have their own agenda, have also entered the fray, ignoring protests from the weak central government in Baghdad. The Peshmerga, the militia of the Kurdish autonomous area in northern Iraq, are moving to screen refugees hoping to return to their homes and to stop ISIS gunmen getting out. Whether they can or not is another question.

A diplomatic source in Moscow revealed that American and Saudi intelligence are preparing to allow over 9,000 ISIS gunmen to leave Mosul and move to eastern Syria. According to the source, these militiamen may be redeployed to eastern Syria to carry out a large-scale offensive that will involve taking control of Deir ez-Zor and Palmyra. And according to the Syrian media, the US-led air armada is already deliberately ignoring the retreating ISIS convoys to allow them to reinforce their remaining positions in Syria.

Last weekend Iraqi aircraft dropped leaflets over Mosul to warn the residents of the offensive. The government called on the residents not to panic and to stay in their homes.

Many believe that the offensive has been timed to coincide with the US presidential elections. “Late October is the perfect moment to end the operation,” the Russian online newspaper Vzglyad says. “The victory in Mosul will be definitely used by the Democrats in their campaign...furthermore, the US-led coalition will have to use a restricted range of heavy weapons and aviation” because “ruined cities do not look good on the TV screen.”

This week the Russian and Syrian military announced that their forces would hold an humanitarian pause in the fighting in Aleppo city. People leaving eastern Aleppo will be monitored in real time via web cameras and surveillance drones, and broadcast on the Russian Defence Ministry’s website.

The pause is intended to allow civilians to leave and rebels to peacefully surrender or withdraw. The Russians hope that during the ceasefire humanitarian organisations, including the United Nations and Red Crescent, will be able to complete all the necessary plans to accommodate refugees leaving the city.

Two corridors will be provided for the rebels. Six more humanitarian corridors will be opened for the evacuation of civilians who, nevertheless, will have to run the deadly gauntlet of the ISIS and Al Qaeda fanatics who have sworn to fight to the end in the Aleppo enclave.