Rebels say pull-out not a surrender of Aleppo
CLASHES continued yesterday in portions of Aleppo’s Salahuddin district following the withdrawal of rebel forces on Thursday. “We will not let Salahuddin go,” rebel Free Syrian Army commander Abu Mohamed declared.
Rebel spokesman Kaddem Saaduddin said the pull-out “does not mean we are leaving Aleppo,” adding that they had plans to retake the quarter.
The army bombed Salahuddin as well as the eastern districts of Sukkur and Hanano, where the courtyard of a rebel headquarters and a house were reported to have been hit. A resident was said to have responded: “We are behind the Free Army, but it is because of them that all this is happening.”
State media announced the offensive was proceeding on several fronts, including a district near the airport in the southeast.
According to the expatriate opposition, shelling by the Syrian army has damaged Aleppo’s imposing 13th-century citadel, a world heritage site. However Syrian state media refuted this charge by publishing photographs of the undamaged citadel under control of the army.
A source in Aleppo told The Irish Times that rebel fighters had taken up positions around the monument and at the entrance to the medieval market before the army began its assault on Salahuddin.
Veteran Algerian diplomat Lakhdar Brahimi is likely to replace Kofi Annan as UN-Arab League envoy and could launch a fresh political process with the aim of bringing the crisis to an end.
Mr Brahimi, who brokered the 1989 Taif agreement that ended the 15-year Lebanese civil war, served as his country’s foreign minister and assumed UN peacemaking roles in Haiti, Afghanistan and South Africa.
“The UN Security Council and regional states must unite to ensure that a political transition takes place as soon as possible,” Mr Brahimi said in a statement released by the Elders group of senior statesmen set up by Nelson Mandela in 2007.
“Millions of Syrians are clamouring for peace. World leaders cannot remain divided any longer.”
He added: “Syrians must come together as a nation in the quest for a new formula. This is the only way to ensure that all Syrians can live together peacefully.”
Negotiations are taking place to define the new envoy’s role; the mandate of the current ceasefire monitoring mission is set to end on August 20th. Mr Annan said last week he would not continue in the post due to deadlock and “finger-pointing” in the Security Council, as well as the escalating conflict.
The US is set to provide $5.5 million (€4.5 million) in aid to the rebels and impose new sanctions on the Syrian regime.
“One of the key forms of pressure is economic sanctions which . . . we will be tightening further . . . [on] both Syrian entities” and supporters, a US state department official said. Iranian bodies are to be included.
British foreign secretary William Hague has announced £5 million (€6.4 million) in aid to the rebel forces for satellite phones, mobile generators and medical supplies. He said British diplomats, who have left Damascus, would deepen contacts with the Free Syrian Army.