Syrian government forces claim to have captured strategic district in southwestern Aleppo, in conflict that has claimed the lives of over two hundred thousand and displaced millions
The Syrian Army is claiming to have taken a strategic district in the southwestern outskirts of Aleppo known as the 1070 Apartments. Though anti-government militants insist the fighting for control of southwestern Aleppo continues, Lebanese Hizballah* has confirmed that government forces and their allies now control the area and the surrounding hills.
At least 85% of the population of Aleppo currently reside under Syrian government-controlled western Aleppo, with the rest under control of rebel forces in eastern Aleppo. Government and anti-government forces have both been accused of committing war crimes in this 4 year old conflict. Regular casualties including deaths and severe injuries are reported from western Aleppo as a result of the use of ‘hellfire’ canons and mortars fired by militants in east Aleppo.
The rebel alliance in eastern Aleppo is largely made up of Jabhat Fatah Al Sham (formerly Jabhat Al Nusra) and Ahrar Al Sham. Both groups seek the overthrow of the Syrian government in order to form a Salafist-oriented Islamic principality or state. Jabhat Fatah Al Sham is the Al-Qaeda affiliate in Syria and both they and Ahrar Al Sham stem from the same ideological foundation as ISIS.
*To learn more about the history of Hizballah in Lebanon and Syria, click here, here and here.
Renewed airstrikes against targets in eastern Aleppo to be expected soon, despite previous promise of moratorium
The Russian Defence Ministry is reportedly planning to renew airstrikes against targets in eastern Aleppo. This comes despite its assurances that the current pause in airstrikes would continue, subject to rebel forces within eastern Aleppo not staging any offensives.
The Syrian government, with support from the Russian Air force, has been pounding targets in eastern Aleppo in what it claims is designed to eradicate terrorists and militant Islamic extremist forces inside the city. The Syrian and Russian governments have been accused of committing atrocities including by their policy of ‘scorched earth’ aerial bombardments. Despite numerous pauses in Syrian and Russian aerial bombardment, very few civilians have been able to evacuate from eastern Aleppo according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Civilians who have attempted to leave have been reportedly shot at or even executed by members of the rebel alliance.
Israel Rejects France’s Peace Initiative
Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu openly rejected the French proposal to hold a summit meeting in Paris in order to restart peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian government. Netanyahu stated that Israel will not participate in the summit, and reiterated his position that he will only accept direct negotiations without preconditions. This way, Netanyahu hopes to maintain the advantage which Israel has as an armed sovereign state in negotiating with a non-sovereign Palestinian government under Israeli occupation.
The French Foreign Ministry stated that France will hold the summit regardless of whether the Israelis choose to participate or not.
Netanyahu is also currently embroiled in a domestic scandal. In the midst of his efforts to eliminate critical television reporting of his administration, a television documentary was aired exposing Netanyahu’s methods of making political appointments in exchange for loyalty. Netanyahu’s long and defensive response to the documentary was aired in full by the critical documentary show, which portrayed Netanyahu as desperate and populistic, resulting in widespread ridicule from the public.
India Uses U.S Elections to Crack Down in Kashmir
Indian forces have blinded hundreds of civilians in Kashmir in the past month, using the cover of the U.S election to avoid international scrutiny. Indian forces have fired thousands of small metal pellets into crowds of civilians, in an attempt to quell recent demonstrations in war-torn Kashmir. These pellets cause permanent blindness when they enter the eyes. Fighting has escalated this month between India and Pakistan in the Kashmir area, with artillery fire taking lives on both sides.
Kashmir, a territory with a Muslim majority population, has been occupied by both the Pakistani and Indian militaries since their independence and partition in 1947. Kashmir has been the subject of three wars between India and Pakistan and a very bloody insurgency, for Kashmiri autonomy, has been waged against the Indian military for decades.
Chances that the conflict will be resolved by political means are low, considering that India is arming itself at a high rate. India recently signed a 6 Billion dollar arms deal with Russia, is the largest customer of Israeli weapons and is overall the world’s largest weapons importer.