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Is the Battle for Aleppo Now a Turning Point in the Syria War?

July 28, 2016 (EIRNS)—Yesterday, the Syrian military command announced that it had completed the encirclement of the rebel-held portion of Aleppo, the largest city in Syria and once its commercial capital, by completely cutting the Castello Road, the last route into that part of the city for the armed opposition groups. By doing so the Syrian army, with backing from the Russian Aerospace Forces contingent deployed in Latakia, has made the positions of the terrorist groups untenable.

At the same time, the Syrian government, in concert with the Russian military, is moving rapidly to conclude the situation rather than digging in for a lengthy siege. Yesterday’s military announcement triggered an uproar from international humanitarian aid NGOs, who warned that starvation for the 250,000 civilians estimated to still be in that part of the city would soon follow. Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu and the Syrian government, in a move that was likely pre-planned for some time, outflanked the NGOs by announcing, this morning, the commencement of a large-scale humanitarian relief operation.

"We have been continuously appealing to opposing sides for reconciliation, but every time, insurgents broke the ’silence regime,’ shelled inhabited areas, attacked positions of the government troops. All this caused a bad humanitarian situation in Aleppo city and its suburbs," Shoigu said at the Russian Defense Ministry this morning.

"Therefore, in accordance to the decree of the President of the Russian Federation, the Minister of Defense gave orders to start a large-scale humanitarian operation aimed at providing assistance to the civil population of the Aleppo city in cooperation with the Syrian government."

International humanitarian organizations operating in Syria have been invited to join the operation. Three humanitarian corridors are being opened for civilians and fighters who decide to lay down their weapons, while a fourth corridor is being opened on the Castello Road for armed militants to withdraw.

Shoigu also announced that under orders from Russian President Vladimir Putin, in response to a personal request from US Secretary of State John Kerry, Deputy Chief of the Main Operational Directorate General Stanislav Gadjimagomedov was going to Geneva with a group of experts, in order to develop joint measures aimed at stabilization of the situation near Aleppo.

At the same time, Syria’s President Bashar al Assad has signed a decree granting amnesty for members of armed groups who turn themselves in to the competent authorities and lay down their weapons, and those who set free in a safe way persons they kidnapped. According to Sputnik, the decree says that

"Armed fugitives hiding from justice shall be exempt from liability if they surrender and hand over their weapons to the competent judicial authorities or the police within three months from the date of this decree’s publication."

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