Syria warns Turkey

by our Arab Affairs correspondent

THE SYRIAN Arab Army is continuing the crackdown against armed terrorist groups in Aleppo following the end of a unilateral Syrian cease-fire that was largely ignored by the sectarian gunmen in the rebel-held enclave in the heart of the city.

Russia’s reconciliation centre in Syria has delivered about 10 tons of humanitarian aid to Aleppo civilians, and the Russians and the Syrian army are ready to resume “humanitarian pauses” in Aleppo if they receive guarantees from international organisations that they are ready to let patients, wounded and civilians leave the rebel-held areas.

But the week-long “pause” in Russian and Syrian air-strikes against the rebels is continuing and humanitarian corridors remain open for any civilians trapped in the fighting.

A handful of women and children have managed to reach the Syrian army lines but some 275,000 others are remain trapped in the besieged rebel stronghold.

General Sergei Rudskoi said that although few civilians had taken advantage of the “pause” to escape the fighting, “the moratorium on Russian and Syrian air-strikes on the city will be extended.”

The Russian general said that the rebels were using civilians as human shields, and had prevented both civilians and fighters prepared to accept safe-conduct from leaving the besieged rebel-held enclave in Aleppo. But six humanitarian corridors remain open and new breaks in fighting could be negotiated to evacuate civilians.

Syria’s popular front government and its Russian ally have offered countless humanitarian aid deliveries, and the Russian Centre for Reconciliation of Opposing Sides in Syria monitors truces and ceasefire violations. According to the latest numbers, 847 residential areas now respect the truce. Russian and Syrian efforts also convinced some 69 opposition groups to accept amnesty and lay down their arms.

On the northern front Turkish troops and armour are continuing their offensive to drive the Syrian Kurd’s militia out of the border lands. But the Syrian army said in a statement this week that it will deal with Turkish forces as “an occupation force” that needs to be fought against by any possible means.

The Turks are supported by the “Free Syrian Army (FSA)” in an operation dubbed the “Euphrates Shield”, which overtly aims to fight ISIS whilst covertly aiming to prevent the Syrian Kurds’ People’s Protection Units (YPG) from advancing into areas close to the Turkish—Syrian border.

The FSA, a bunch of deserters organised in 2011 by agents of imperialism working for “regime change”, provides the Arab cover for what is essentially an attempt to establish a Turkish-run buffer zone in northern Syria. But last week’s Turkish air-raids on Kurdish positions in northern Syria provoked an angry response in Damascus, which threatened to intervene the next time Turkey sends its war-planes over Syrian soil.

The Syrian Defence Ministry accused Turkey of “flagrant aggression, which targeted innocent citizens,” saying that it considers it “a dangerous development that could escalate the situation...any attempt to once again breach Syrian airspace by Turkish war planes will be dealt with and they will be brought down by all means available.”

Meanwhile a Syrian field commander warned on Wednesday that Syria’s army and allies will retaliate against any advances by Turkish-backed rebels toward areas under its control in Aleppo. According to the Lebanese Al-Mayadeen satellite TV station, the officer, whose name was not mentioned, said that any advances by the Turkish-backed “Free Syrian Army” toward the posts of the Syrian army and its Russian-Iranian and Syrian allies in northern and eastern Syria will be confronted “firmly and decisively.”

The commander added that any military operation attempting to fight ISIS whilst threatening the Syrian army and its allies in Aleppo will be crossing a red line. According to the Turkish media, a Syrian helicopter gun-ship struck FSA posts in northern Aleppo on Tuesday.