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Syria Report, 10 July 2013

Footage from Aleppo has confirmed reports that the city’s population is being increasingly repressed by insurgents, who have occupied parts of the city for over a year.


Two towns to the north of the city, Zahra and Nubol, have been under siege for months. Despite the blockade, Syrian transport helicopters regularly resupply the towns.

FSA militants have since surrounded areas in in the city’s western districts and expanded their blockade. Free Syrian Army units including Chechens from Jabhat al-Nusra have enforced the embargo from areas such as Bustan al-Qasr - forbidding the transfer of foodstuffs, baby milk products and medicine.

A number of statements published by militant groups outline the harsh regime imposed on the population – around two million people who inhabit the western districts of the city. The following image shows a banner erected in the city – forbidding the transfer of food, medicine, oil, babies’ stuff, milk, dairy products and other items. Banner erected over crossing point to government-controlled area

The statement below explains how the blockade is a joint order by FSA rebels and Jabhat Al-Nusra militants. “To all managers and owners of mills, grain silos and merchants: It is prohibited to transport flour and other types of grain to the non liberated areas wherever they come from. All violators will be punished by law,” states the document.

Although the Syrian army is advancing on multiple fronts throughout Syria, militants in Aleppo have been boosted following a Saudi Arabia-led effort to traffic advanced weapons to the province.

The US government’s recent pledge to arm militants has been widely accepted as the green light which led to the Saudi operation to send hundreds of anti-tank missiles in order to drive the Syrian army from the vicinity of the city.

As a result, the Syrian army has been unable to effectively confront insurgents in the city – due to the threat of foreign-armed insurgents and of civilian casualties – Aleppo is the most populous city in Syria.

Lack of food, medicine and other essential supplies have been a long-running problem for the city’s population, but in the last two weeks – the shortage has reached catastrophic levels, as a result of the embargo imposed by insurgents. Today, residents of Bustan al-Qusr organised a demonstration against occupying FSA militants.

The demonstrators protesting against the ban, are confronted by FSA gunmen – who proceed to fire shots into the crowd.

video: FSA Shoot at Protestors (Aleppo, 10/07/2013)

Another video posted today, shows what appears to be an insurgent checkpoint – where a non-Syrian militant searches a civilian’s belongings to find food concealed – in violation of the embargo. Syrians communicating on social media have pointed to the insurgents non-native accent.

video: FSA Food Embargo (Aleppo 10/07/2013)

In the following video, civilians can be seen running with food and other supplies – attempting to cross from insurgent-occupied Aleppo to a government-controlled district. Gun shots can be heard being fired toward the fleeing crowd.

video: Civilians Flee from FSA Gunfire (Aleppo, July 2013)

Throughout the day, more videos surfaced – the following showing civilians under fire from insurgents enforcing the ban:

video: Syria Militants Shoot at Civilians (10/07/2013)

Among FSA factions and units, of which there are approximately a thousand across Syria, punishment for violating the Aleppo embargo varies from a month in “prison”, to a sentence of death.

The following photo circulating on social media shows the bodies of men flung onto the back of a truck – having been shot for attempting to smuggle food to civilians in a blockaded district of the city.

Unrest has grown in insurgent-controlled Aleppo following widespread atrocities carried out by FSA units, including the execution of a fifteen year-old boy and the execution of a religious figure.

Significantly, some opposition figures have expanded on their condemnation of the insurgency, describing the situation in parts of Aleppo as an impending famine: The food embargo that was imposed on western Aleppo on Thursday night has entered its 4th day today amid calls to re-open a border crossing that connects the eastern and western parts of the war-torn city, according to opposition sources.

Meanwhile, food prices continue to soar as the remaining food stock in western Aleppo has almost run out. Activists have reiterated their calls for the rebel factions barring food from enterign through the sole pedestrian border crossing in Bustan Al-Qasser to allow people to let people carrying food supplies to pass through to the western neighborhoods.

Moreover, the only other entrance which is the Damascus- Aleppo Highway in southwestern Aleppo remained closed for the 4th consecutive day, it is still unclear who is behind the blockage as both sides denied responsibility for it, leaving some to wonder whether it’s a contrived crisis to begin with.

An interview carried out by a Syrian media activist, sheds more light on the catastrophe in the city following the introduction of the embargo. The interviewee who is from Aleppo, describes the ongoing siege of some Aleppo districts, and the occupation of others:

video: FSA Place Food Embargo on West Aleppo - Interview with an Aleppen

From across Syria and particularly Aleppo, growing calls for the government to do more to lift the occupation of the city have resulted in more resources being allocated in dealing with the insurgency in the city.

Reports suggest that rapid advances by troops in Homs, Idlib and the north east, will be followed up by a push to root out militants in Aleppo – Syria’s most populous city. Today, lorry loads of Syrian government humanitarian aid arrived in the city to be distributed in blockaded districts in an effort to break the siege.

The trucks traveled from Lattakia – where many of Aleppo’s displaced residents have taken refuge under the protection of government programs.

Source: https://www.facebook.com/tourism.in.syria2

As the insurgency suffers hammering defeats across the country, statements quoted by mainstream news agencies show increasing despair among militant’s ranks – who have pledged to shell government controlled areas in an effort to exact “revenge”.

Meanwhile, in Damascus, social media posts reported a sale for cut price food supplies to coincide with the beginning of the holy month of Ramadan. Recently, the Syrian government rapidly formed a committee tasked with confronting the logistical difficulties in supplying much needed food, oil and medicine to the province.

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