‘Deadly place to call home’: Families living near Aleppo’s frontline speak to RT
The southern part of the city became a battle front just weeks ago, quickly emerging as the most active in Aleppo. Some 1,070 apartment buildings controlled by government forces are located here, and just opposite them are those controlled by the opposition, mainly consisting of Jaish al-Fateh militants, previously known as Jabhat al-Nusra, Al-Qaeda’s branch in Syria.
“They used suicide bombers and they have so many weapons," a Syrian soldier fighting the rebels here told RT."We will stop them in this battle.”
The three military academies that the rebels recently seized in a push to regain control of the city are also located here. Syrian medical staff described the recent situation in the neighborhood as the bloodiest fighting since the violence first erupted in Aleppo. Still, residents have stayed, clinging to the place where they have lived for a long time, as RT’s crew found out.
Walking through the home of one of the families, an RT cameraman filmed bits of shrapnel scattered across the terrace and holes in the shutters left by bullets, as Phelan described what she saw as “a deadly place to call home.” The family that occupies the building did not wish to be filmed, but told RT off-camera that, despite the sound of explosions and shooting heard outside, it’s not the worse they have seen over the last six years.
Before the fighting began a little over three weeks ago, this neighborhood was one of the safer parts of Aleppo, and many buildings here were used for housing refugees displaced from the city’s other neighborhoods. Some of them still live here, with no place else to go.
“We were refugees from the Karm al-Myasser area close to Aleppo airport. We fled from there three-and-a-half years ago,” one of the inhabitants told RT.
The boy Ahmed says that some of his friends left the neighborhood and went to “safer areas like al Furgan and Salah Eddin,” but as Phelan noted, these areas can hardly be considered safe, as Salah Eddin was one of Aleppo’s most gruesome battlegrounds, and is largely in ruins after battles between the Syrian government forces and the rebels.
“Before the situation was better. I used to go to work, but now I can’t. I can only go out for two hours, then I have to come back,” Ahmed complains.
The children hardly ever go outside now that there is fighting here. Five-year-old Safer told Phelan that all she does is tidy the house and play with her friends indoors. But the children – as children do – remain hopeful that one day the sounds of battle will cease and peace will return to their neighborhood.
“First of all, I will clean the street. Then I will call all my friends and tell them to come back so we can play together, play football in the square, it will be amazing,” Ahmed says with tears in his eyes, dreaming of the day the war will be over.
While the situation on the ground remains appalling, the world’s top diplomats have been trying to find a solution to the Syrian crisis. In the most recent development, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov had a lengthy conversation with US Secretary of State John Kerry in Switzerland where they discussed the Syrian crisis behind closed doors. Along with the UN, the two countries have been brokering a plan for the cessation of hostilities in the war-torn state, but the US objects to President Bashar Assad remaining in power, while the Russian government supports the Syrian head of state.
At a press conference that followed the talks, the two officials stated that progress had been made, noting that only a few minor issues remain to be sorted out before they can announce a final Syrian peace plan. It has been agreed that a political – as opposed to a military – solution is vital if the conflict is to be put to an end. The diplomats also came to the conclusion that terrorists from Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) and Al-Nusra front must be considered separately from rebel forces, and dealt with accordingly. Lavrov said the Russian side had forwarded intelligence on the groups that form Al-Nusra in Syria to its US counterparts in order to ensure that terrorists and rebels are distinguished from one another, while Kerry promised to bring terrorists to justice no matter what they call themselves.
“Nusra is a designated terrorist organization, Nusra is Al-Qaeda, and no name change hides what Nusra really is and what it tries to do,” the US official stated
However, Virginia state senator Richard Black told RT that, in his view, top US officials still have a hard time deciphering terrorist groups from “moderate rebels.”
“The US has consistently held this diplomatic line that there are moderate terrorists, who can be distinguished from Al-Nusra… It’s a bit of a fantasy. Secretary Kerry still has this myth where he pretends that there are good rebels and bad rebels. The Defense Intelligence Agency which works for the Joint Chiefs of Staff has said that is not true, that for all intents and purposes there are no moderate rebels, they’re all terrorists. This was highly classified information, that was leaked, but I think they understand that,” Senator Black said.