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Aleppo’s Refugees Under Attack, Regime Mobilizes for a Decisive Battle - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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Beirut- The battle in Aleppo signals that the Assad regime and its allies are determined to continue their military escalation to completely control the besieged neighborhoods of eastern Aleppo.

A leading opposition official told Asharq Al-Awsat on Tuesday that the city started to suffer from water scarcity, adding that regime forces fire “rocket launchers on the hour, sending 200 rockets in one go followed by explosive barrels as the Syrian and Russian warplanes drop rocket parachutes.”

Syrian opposition official Mohammed al-Shami told Asharq Al-Awsat that fighters “could not hold out facing an unprecedented wave of shelling.”

Meanwhile, a senior official in the pro-Damascus military alliance told Reuters on Tuesday that Syria and its allies aim to drive rebels from Aleppo before Donald Trump takes office as U.S. President, as regime forces surged to their biggest victories in the city in the past few days.

The pro-government official, who declined to be identified in order to speak freely, nevertheless indicated that the next phase of the campaign could be more difficult as the army and its allies seek to capture more densely populated areas.

The military developments in Aleppo reflected on the worsening humanitarian crisis. The U.N. has sent a warning on the situation there, describing developments in the eastern part of the city as “scary.” The U.N. humanitarian chief and relief coordinator said up to 16,000 people had been displaced from eastern Aleppo.

Amid the military pressure, al-Shami said that the Syrian opposition forces received on Tuesday an initiative from the “Syrian Red Crescent” offering to keep three areas in the eastern neighborhoods of Aleppo away from the attacks of regime forces and that could serve as “an assembly point for all opposition forces in the city,” before being moved to Idlib.

Those three areas would probably be Bustan al-Qasr, Kallasah, Mashhad or Saif al-Dawla. Opposition fighters could therefore be moved to these areas with their medium weapons before being transferred later to the Idlib suburbs.

However, al-Shami said the opposition has not yet decided on the initiative.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said there are around 14,000 fighters inside the neighborhoods of eastern Aleppo, “a number which Idlib cannot bear, particularly that the city is already packed with opposition fighters.”

U.N. envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura said he could not say how long eastern Aleppo could resist.

“Clearly, I cannot deny – this is a military acceleration and I can’t tell you how long eastern Aleppo will last,” he told the European Parliament.

Russia said that the army’s breakthrough in Aleppo had dramatically altered the situation on the ground, allowing more than 80,000 civilians to access humanitarian aid after years of what it described as being used by militants as human shields.

“During the last 24 hours, thanks to very well-prepared and careful actions, Syrian soldiers were able to radically change the situation,” Major-General Igor Konashenkov, a defense ministry spokesman, said in a statement.

And while the international community continues to condemn the situation in Aleppo, the Assad regime was committing a massacre in Bab al-Nairab, a district in the rebel-held area, killing at least 25 people mainly women and children, and leaving dozens more wounded or missing, according to the Syrian National Coalition.

U.N. Emergency Relief Coordinator Stephen O’Brien said on Tuesday: “I am extremely concerned about the fate of civilians as a result of the deeply alarming and chilling situation unfolding in Aleppo city.