MESOP UPDATE SYRIA : Russia Threatens Resumption of Bombing of Aleppo

UPDATE 0815 GMT: In his latest interview with foreign media, President Assad has blamed the US and the “West” for the end of a short-lived ceasefire — with Russian and regime warplanes destroying a UN convoy near Aleppo — last month. Assad told the Serbian newspaper Politika:

The West, mainly the United States,…always ask for ceasefire only when the terrorists are in a bad situation, not for the civilians. And they try to use those ceasefires in order to support the terrorists, bring them logistic support, armament, money, everything, in order to re-attack and to become stronger again. When it didn’t work, they ask the terrorists to make it fail or to start attacking again.

So, who’s to blame? It’s the United States and its allies, the Western countries, because for them, terrorists and terrorism are a card they want to play on the Syrian arena….For them, supporting the terrorists is a war of attrition against Syria, against Iran, against Russia, that’s how they look at it.

Assad insisted that it was the rebels who attacked the UN convoy on September 19: “They have interest in attacking that convoy, we don’t have.”

The President said, despite their cooperation since 2013 in a political process, Russia and the US would never be partners in the Syrian crisis:

We hope, but in reality, no, for a simple reason: because the Russians based their politics on values, beside their interest. The values are that they adopt international law, they fight terrorism. The interest [is] that if you have terrorists prevailing in our region, that will affect not only our region but Europe, Russia, and the rest of the world. So, the Russians are very serious and very determined to continue fighting the terrorists, while the Americans based their politics on a different value, completely different value, their value is that “we can use the terrorists.”

UPDATE 0745 GMT: Russian airstrikes killed dozens of people in northwest Syria on Wednesday, according to the pro-opposition Local Coordination Committees.

The LCC documented 42 deaths, including 9 women and 7 children.

Of the fatalities, 18 were in Idlib Province, mosst from airstrikes on Saraqeb and Ma’arat Masrin. In Aleppo Province, 15 people were killed, most in strikes on Atareb and Oram al-Kubra.

Pro-opposition Orient News reports on Wednesday’s bombing of Saraqeb, killing at least eight people and wounding more than 50:

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ORIGINAL ENTRY: Russia is threatening to resume its bombing of Syria’s largest city Aleppo from Friday evening.

Moscow cloaked the threat in President Vladimir Putin’s announcement of a 10-hour pause in attacks between 9 am and 7 pm local time tomorrow. The Russian Defence Ministry said rebels would be allowed to exit the city unharmed and with their weapons through two corridors, one to the Turkish border and one to neighboring Idlib Province. Civilians, including the sick and wounded, would be able to leave through six other corridors.

The Syrian army released a similar statement later in the day.

One rebel faction immediately rejected the move. “This is completely out of the question. We will not give up the city of Aleppo to the Russians and we won’t surrender,” Zakaria Malahifji of the Fastaqim faction said.

Russia and the Assad regime re-imposed a siege in late August on opposition areas of Aleppo, with about 275,000 civilians. On September 19, Moscow and the regime ended a brief ceasefire, brokered by the US and Russia, with the destruction of a UN aid convoy. Over the next month, airstrikes killed more than 600 civilians in the city.

On October 18, Russia proclaimed a suspension in the bombing, broken only by a brief series of reports of airstrikes on October 23.

Last Friday, rebels launched an offensive west of Aleppo to try and break the siege. The factions made initial gains, including the Dahiyat al-Assad district. However, amid a media blackout, there have been no reports since Sunday of any change of territory.

Journalist Hadi al-Abdallah speaks on Tuesday with a commander of the Sham Front, Abu Jameel:

The first round is to attack the regime’s first defense line in Aleppo’s western part. The regime relies on that area, thinking it was invincible. Thank God, we broke through it.