Assad regime and its allies launched a new offensive on rebel-held areas in rural Aleppo and Idlib, two days after evacuation operations in eastern Aleppo were finished and “The victory” there was declared by them.
The long months of crippling siege, starvation policy, daily bombardment, fierce clashes and bloody massacres ended when the Assad regime and its allies were able to oblige the rebels in Aleppo to surrender and make an agreement to leave the area they have been holding since 2012 after losing more than 90% of it.
More than 1500 civilians were killed and thousands were injured from September until the announcement of the ceasefire, and the residents had lived in great deprivation without functioning hospitals and with little electricity and water in freezing winter conditions.
The ceasefire agreement was a result of talks between Russia and Turkey.
As part of an agreement between Turkey and Russia, 40.000 of rebels and civilians were evacuated from eastern Aleppo to rebel-held Idlib, allowing the Assad regime to take full control of the city after years of fighting.
After Aleppo, Idlib became the next aim and Assad regime has already started to prepare for the battle with daily bombing and massacres since months. The number of deaths rose sharply in October.
New attacks on Idlib and rural Aleppo
Russian jets stepped up strikes on several towns in Syria’s rebel-held Idlib province and rural Aleppo.
Sources said at least eight strikes targeted Binish, Saraqeb and Jisr al Shaqour – main towns in the northwestern Syrian province of Idlib. There were reports of several casualties, mainly among civilians.
Residents and rebels said Russian and Syrian jets also staged heavy strikes on rebel-held parts of western and southern parts of rural Aleppo for the second day since the last rebels left their remaining pocket of territory in Aleppo city.
They raided the town of Khan al Asal, about 14 km (9 miles) west of Aleppo, with cluster bombs while several strikes hit Hreitan and Andan, according to a rebel fighter from Jaish al Mujahdeen. The nearby town of Atareb was also hit.
In addition, at least six civilians were killed on Saturday in air strikes on the rebel-held town of Atareb, west of Aleppo, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
The SOHR, a UK-based information office that has been documenting human-rights abuses in Syria, said at least two children were among the dead.
Rebels said they repelled an Iranian-backed militia assault on Saturday to gain ground in the Rashideen area, west of Aleppo city.
“People are concerned because there are thousands of civilians who are still trapped on the outskirts of Aleppo, particularly those who have been evacuated from eastern Aleppo,” a journalist said.
“If the fighting continues, that could further exacerbate the situation.”
Idlib, the next aim
The situation in Idlib will be catastrophic if the offensive is made wide as it was in Aleppo, because of the arrival of thousands of migrants who were forced to leave rural Damascus areas and Homs into Idlib province in addition to the newly coming civilians from Aleppo.
Idlib province is witnessing massacres and random killing by regime and Russian warplanes and Helicopters using missiles, barrel bombs and heavy machine guns, the heavy bombardment started in the 20th of October leading to massive raise in the dead numbers, according to the observatory.
SOHR documented the death of 288 civilians including 93 children and 55 women in the period between 22nd of October until today, by aerial bombardment by Russian and Syrian warplanes, while 1000 others were wounded and seriously wounded or permanently wounded, in addition to massive material damages.
In November, Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu said Russian forces had begun a “major operation” targeting Idlib and Homs provinces.
According to analysts, the regime has been trying to gather the rebels in Idlib, making it easy to fight them all fiercely in one place under the term of fighting terrorism. The fierce campaign may take long, but analysts say it will succeed eventually as happened in Aleppo if the global powers didn’t take any real steps to stop it.
— Thomas van Linge (@arabthomness) December 4, 2016
— Syrian Revolution (@S_R_L_W) December 5, 2016