MESOP INSIDER : Russian Bombing Punishes Northwest For Assad’s Aleppo Losses

8 August 2016 – By Scott Lucas – eaworldview – Russia has retaliated for the Assad regime’s losses in northwest Syria with intense airstrikes, including the claimed use of vacuum bombs and white phosphorus.

A day after rebels broke the pro-Assad siege of opposition areas of Aleppo city, Moscow’s warplanes attacked across Idlib and Aleppo Provinces. Activists and the White Helmets civil defense organization said Idlib, the largest city controlled by the opposition, was bombarded with white phosphorus. The dropping of white phosphorus munitions on populated areas is banned under international law.Analysts also said that incendiary bombs — the use of which has been denied by Russia — also pounded Idlib. On Saturday, a vacuum bomb destroyed a hospital in Idlib Province, killing 11 people including five staff.

A senior commander in the Fatah Halab operations room in Aleppo said, “We are in our trenches but there are insane air strikes of unprecedented ferociousness. The regime is using cluster and vacuum bombs.”

However, the Russians deliberately hit civilian areas as well as rebel positions — the Jaish al-Fatah rebel bloc moved its forces out of Idlib city months ago to deprive Moscow of a pretext for bombing.

The local council in nearby Saraqeb, which has been bombed by the Russians for more than a week, declared a state of emergency on Sunday. It suspended normal services, appealing to teh Syrian opposition and international community to halt Moscow’s attacks on 40,000 civilians.

Russia has attacked Saraqeb every day, causing dozens of casualties, after one of its helicopters was shot down near the town and five personnel were killed.

Russian State media cheered the attacks on Idlib, claiming they were a “major bombing of [an] al-Nusra Front stronghold near Aleppo”:

Footage from Idlib of the “white phosphorus” and “incendiary” bombing:

Russia-Regime Try to Counter Aleppo Loss

Russian attacks were unable to prevent rebels advancing in their major offensive, southwest of Aleppo city, last week. On Saturday the Jaish al-Fatah rebel bloc completed the capture of the regime’s third-largest artillery base, and cut the southern ring road.

The rebels also achieved a vital symbolic victory by breaking the siege of Aleppo, established a month ago when pro-Assad troops and the Russian air force took control of the last route north of the city. Fighters from outside and inside the city reached each other on the southwestern front and then established a 2-km (1.25-mile) wide corridor. Photographs on Sunday showed the first supplies of vegetables moving into opposition-held eastern Aleppo city.

Having denied any rebel advances near Aleppo, Russian and Syrian State media declared on Sunday that the Syrian army and allies were counter-attacking under Moscow’s bombing. However, there were no signs of any significant recapture of territory.

The latest claim by pro-regime activists is that 2,000 fighters of the Iraqi militia Harakat al-Nujaba are moving to the southwestern Aleppo front.

Meanwhile, a battle appeared to be building for a cement factory, with a large garrison of pro-Assad troops, near the southern ring road. Rebels have surrounded the area near the town of Ramouseh, parts of which they have taken as well as the artillery base and air force technical college.