Friday 27 April 2018

Desperate rebels plead for aid

Damien McElroy and Richard Spencer in Aleppo and Beirut

SYRIAN rebels facing an imminent onslaught by regime troops in Aleppo appealed to the outside world last night to come to their aid, saying they had little more than willpower with which to defend themselves.

Haj Morea, their leader in the city, commented on fears expressed by western leaders, including British Foreign Secretary William Hague, that the regime was about to perpetrate another massacre.

"We have heard many promises but until now we have not seen it with our eyes or touched it with our hands," he said. "We really don't have anything to stop the tanks or bombing by fighter jets.

"We can only win over the citizens of Aleppo to our side and hope that the strength of the people is enough."

With shops shuttered, roads strewn with charred barricades and smoke pouring from buildings, the few people that ventured out in Aleppo yesterday walked in fear.

As Syrian reinforcements completed a build-up on Aleppo's southern and western flanks, world leaders warned that a "slaughter" was becoming inevitable.

"This is the concern: that we will see a massacre in Aleppo, and that's what the regime appears to be lining up for," said a spokesman for the US State Department.

Mr Hague said: "This utterly unacceptable escalation of the conflict could lead to a devastating loss of civilian life."

He met Ban Ki-moon, the United Nations secretary general, who issued a last-minute appeal to President Bashar al-Assad to draw back from the assault.

"The violence from both sides must stop for the sake of suffering civilians in Syria," he said.

General Robert Mood, the outgoing head of the UN monitoring mission, said he thought Assad's days in power were numbered.

"In my opinion it is only a matter of time before a regime that is using such heavy military power and disproportional violence against the civilian population is going to fall," said Gen Mood, a Norwegian.

Rebel commanders claim half the city has fallen to the opposition fighters who poured in last weekend.

The regime response has been to pull troops from elsewhere to repel the twin rebel attacks on Aleppo and Damascus.

The largely working-class districts in rebel hands came under artillery fire all day. In the early hours, Firdous -- or Paradise -- was targeted by the regime's big guns. A crowd that had gathered at a site hit by a shell was blasted by a second round.

"Do you want to know the names of the people killed today?" asked Ahmed Azouz, an activist. "There are six dead with names provided and another 14 who have not been identified."

Opposition fighters admit they are outgunned by the regime, despite reports of supplies from Saudi Arabia and Qatar.

Navi Pillay, the UN human rights commissioner, gave a warning of what might befall a defeated rebel army. She said there were reports of extra-judicial killings and shootings of civilians during the government's largely successful efforts to retake Damascus suburbs earlier this week.

Abu Hassan, who was looking on, said: "If the army comes back they will destroy us.

"There will be no courts, they will massacre in each and every way, everywhere." (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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