10/24/2016, 09.26
SYRIA
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As ceasefire expires, fighting renewed in Aleppo. US accuses Damascus of using chemical weapons

The Syrian army has hit the rebel-controlled eastern sector. In response militants they have launched rockets and missiles against the western district. At least 20 militants died in the clashes. According to Washington, "the Damascus regime" is still "combatant" and violates the provisions of the UN Security Council.

 

Aleppo (AsiaNews / Agencies) – Violent clashes resumed in Aleppo over the weekend, the principal battleground in the conflict between the regular army loyal to President Bashar al Assad and rebel militias, joined by jihadist groups.

The 72 hours "humanitarian truce" in bombings, proclaimed by Russia, was followed by new, intense fighting between the two sides. Yesterday the Syrian army - supported by Moscow air - hit the rebel controlled eastern sector of the city several times.

Witnesses reported that government ground forces have advanced on the southern outskirts of the city, once the economic and commercial capital in Syria. The military conquered some territories that dominate the neighborhoods of Rashideen and Khan Tuman, in opposition hands.

During the fighting at least 20 militants were killed, most belonging to the group of Fateh al-Sham, the former Nustra Front (offshoot of al Qaeda in Syria).

In response, the eastern section - where 250 thousand people are living under siege – fired rockets and missiles that have hit some districts of the western part of the metropolis, loyal to Damascus and in which the majority of the population is enclosed (1.2 million of people).

On  October 20 Moscow had announced a "humanitarian pause" in the bombings: the aim was to ensure eight corridors to allow  the population of Eastern Zone under siege escape. Two of these, in particular, were reserved for fighters who could leave the area with their weapons.

However, only a small group of people left the area using one of the eight corridors available. Even the United Nations stopped evacuating the wounded, because of the precarious security conditions for its workers and volunteers.

Meanwhile, the United States has again accused President Assad violating international norms and of using chemical weapons. In a statement released on October 22, Ned Price, spokesman for the Council for National Security condemns Assad "in the strongest possible terms" for the use of chemical weapons and Syria's refusal to comply with the chemical weapons Convention "signed in 2013". "The regime - said the senior US official - has violated" the Convention, "the 2118 resolution of the UN Security Council on the use of industrial chlorine as a weapon against its own people."

Analysts and experts point out that Washington’s latest accusations on the use of chemical weapons are a gimmick used to justify, as in the past in Iraq, a direct US military involvement in the conflict. An eventuality that worries prominent figures of the Syrian Church.

It is not the first time that there has been the use of chemical weapons in the context of the Syrian conflict. In 2013 the government and rebels exchanged accusations and responsibility for attacks with chemical agents. The United Nations has opened several investigations following complaints of gas use, by both the regular army and rebel militias.

The last of these dates back to August, when the UN experts denounced the use of chlorine gas on "at least two occasions" by the government army. Accusations that were swiftly rejected by the Damascus government.

In previous years, the apostolic nuncio in Syria, Cardinal-designate Mario Zenari, had lashed out against the use of chemical weapons.  He had also shown great appreciation for the US-Russia agreement for delivery and destruction of chemical weapons held by Damascus.

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