Daily Management Review

Northern Aleppo Countryside 'Totally Encircled', say Syrian Rebel Commander


Northern Aleppo Countryside 'Totally Encircled', say Syrian Rebel Commander
Even as heavy Russian bombardment continued, the northern countryside of Aleppo province was completely encircled by Syrian government forces and its allies, said the commander of a U.S.-supported Syrian rebel group on Friday.
Choking opposition supply lines from Turkey to Aleppo city, rebel defenses were broken through by Syrian government troops and their allies to reach two Shi'ite villages in northern Aleppo province on Wednesday.
However tens of thousands of people have been forced to flee toward the Turkish border due to the assault in northern Aleppo province, backed by hundreds of Russian air strikes there. The assault has also helped derail peace talks in Geneva.
The aerial bombardment by Russia has continued, said Hassan Haj Ali, the head of a prominent Free Syrian Army group called Liwa Suqour al-Jabal that has received U.S. military training in Qatar and Saudi Arabia.
"The Russian cover continues night and day, there were more than 250 air strikes on this area in one day. The regime is now trying to expand the area it has taken control of," he said. "Now the northern countryside (of Aleppo province) is totally encircled, and the humanitarian situation is very difficult," Ali was quoted by Reuters.
Government forces and allied fighters had taken over the town of Ratyan, which lies close to areas they captured on Wednesday, Hezbollah's Al Manar television said.
The "symbolic" capture of Ratyan was confirmed by the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights even as Haj Ali said it had not yet fallen.
"There are very heavy battles in Ratyan, and an attempt by the regime to storm it. But until now they haven't been able to enter," Ali said.
More military aid, including anti-aircraft missiles should be sent to the Syrian rebels, said Haj Ali making the calls for countries backing Syrian rebels. However he added that there was little chance of new arms and ammunition being sent.
"We demand daily more support, but the issue of anti-aircraft (weapons) has become a dream ... the dream that will not come true," he said.
As part of a program of military support overseen by the Central Intelligence Agency the U.S.-made TOW missiles, or guided anti-tank missiles have been supplied to vetted rebel groups and is considered to be the most potent weapon in the rebel arsenal.
However these weapons are of little use against fighter bombers even though they have helped rebels to slow advances on the ground.
Russian airstrikes against opposition forces were “undermining efforts to find a political solution to the conflict”, said Nato’s secretary general, Jens Stoltenberg.
More violations of Turkish airspace by the increased Russian air force activities “creates risks, heightened tensions and is of course a challenge for Nato”, he said.
There has been a gathering of thousands of Syrians on the Syrian side of the border seeking refuge in Turkey, said Turkish officials. It was not clear when Turkey would open the border to allow the group in officials at the government’s crisis management agency said.