October 1, 2016 – SYRIA – Syrian rebels and civilians in the besieged eastern half of Aleppo are bracing for an onslaught ground assault by Syrian regime forces and their Shia fighter allies which could once and for all end the opposition’s resistance in the city. US officials said they were seeing signs that thousands of troops from across the Shia world – including Syrian regime soldiers, Iranian Revolutionary Guards, Hizbollah fighters, Iraqi militiamen and Afghan mercenaries – were massing for a final assault on Aleppo.
The warning came as largest hospital on the rebel side of the city was put out of service after being hit by barrel bombs on Saturday amid a dramatically intensified Russian and Syrian regime bombardment of Aleppo. Boris Johnson, the foreign secretary, accused Russia of carrying out illegal “double tap” strikes, in which an area is bombed and then struck again minutes later to kill first responders as they try to rescue the injured. As US-led diplomatic efforts to broker a truce continued to stall, Moscow warned Washington against intervening militarily against the Assad regime, saying that American strikes against Damascus would have “terrible, tectonic consequences.”
Civilians caught in harm’s way: A wounded Syrian child looks on from inside a vehicle following a reported airstrike on Kafr Batna in the outskirts of the capital Damascus CREDIT: AMER ALMOHIBANY/AFP
It also emerged that more than 80 per cent of UN aid convoys to besieged areas were blocked or delayed in September, leaving civilians without badly-needed supplies, according to the Guardian. The assault force gathering outside Aleppo is reported to be made up of 10,000 troops and their goal is to finally recapture the rebel-held east of the city and bring an end its four-years of defiance against Bashar al-Assad and his regime. “There appears to be forces massing for some kind of assault on Aleppo,” said Mark Toner, a spokesman for the US State Department. When asked how long before the city fell to attackers, he replied: “It could be soon.”
If Aleppo did fall back into the control of the Syrian regime it would be potentially the single biggest turning point in six years of fighting and a major defeat for rebel forces. The Syrian regime and the Russian air force dramatically escalated airstrikes on east Aleppo in preparation for the attack and the World Health Organization (WHO) said that 338 people were killed in the last week, including 106 children. –Telegraph