Thousands of civilians may lose their food supply if regime troops succeeded in capturing areas controlled by the opposition in Aleppo, the UN said Tuesday and warned of a new wave of refugees.
Regime troops backed by Russian air jets attacked the countryside near Aleppo aiming to seize the city.
The UN is concerned that this attack may bar the last route linking areas controlled by the opposition to Turkish borders, which is the only path for water and food supplies.
“It would leave up to 300,000 people, still residing in the city, cut off from humanitarian aid unless cross-line access could be negotiated,” the UN Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said. If regime troops move forward, “local councils in the city estimate that some 100,000 – 150,000 civilians may flee”.
The UN World Food Programme began food distribution in the Syrian town of Azaz near the Turkish border for the new wave of displaced people. “The situation is quite volatile and fluid in northern Aleppo with families on the move seeking safety,” WFP’s country director in Syria Jakob Kern said.
“We are extremely concerned as access and supply routes from the northern to eastern regions of Aleppo and surrounding areas are now cut off but we are making every effort to get enough food in place for all those in need, bringing it in through the remaining open border crossing point from Turkey,” he said.
The UAE said Sunday that it is ready to send ground troops to support an international coalition to fight the “Islamic State” (IS) in Syria, provided it would be led by the US. “Our stance is fixed … Any serious operation against IS should include ground forces,” UAE Minister of State of Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash said in a press conference.
Last week, Saudi Arabia said it is prepared to participate in a ground operation against IS in Syria led by the US. This was welcomed by the US even though the launch was not decided until now. Bahrain also said that it is also ready to join in such an operation.
Political and security analyst at the Delma Institute based in the UAE Mohamed Hineidi told Daily News Egypt the UAE’s announcement to send troops to Syria likely comes from a genuine desire to combat the likes of IS and other terror groups.
For Saudi Arabia it may be posturing towards Iran and encouraging the deployment of an anti-Daesh coalition that is also anti-Assad and anti-Iran, he said.
“It may also be that Riyadh wants to prevent [Bashaar] Al-Assad from portraying himself as the only bulwark and vanguard against [IS] following his victories against the opposition. Al-Assad’s opponents, and Saudi Arabia being the first among them, believe that the Syrian leader is manoeuvring himself to portray to the world that in Syria, it is either him or [IS]”, he said.
Therefore deployment of Gulf troops to Syria, which remains highly unlikely, would be to prevent that narrative from unfolding.
The Syrian regime’s recent attack near Aleppo ruined the peace talks currently being held in Geneva between the regime and the opposition since the regime backed by Russia is trying to achieve gains on the ground.
The talks were the first trial to reaching a political solution in Syria after the UN succeeded in bringing the two sides into proximity talks. However negotiations halted after the opposition refused to continue while Russian air forces are still carrying out operations on the ground.
The Geneva negotiations have been postponed until 25 February, following the Syrian government’s recapture of the towns of Nubul and Zahraa, which has resulted in cutting the rebel supply lines into Aleppo from Turkey. However many say the talks have collapsed completely.
“I would imagine that to be true, unless the opposition change their demands to reflect the current facts on the ground, where Al-Assad has the upper hand. It is not really clear why he would engage in negotiations based on his current military momentum,” Hineidi said.
Since his success in breaking the main supply line to Aleppo, Al-Assad’s military fortunes have arguably become more favourable than at any time during the civil war.
As such, he may feel that he should continue with the complete encirclement of the opposition-held Aleppo with the aim of overtaking it, as opposed to engaging in negotiations, he said.
Hineidi also believes that the political process was not very inclusive from the beginning, “as the Kurdish Democratic People’s Party (PYD) was not invited to the talks at Turkey’s request”.