200,000 Flee Aleppo; Syria’s Economy Withering
In the past two days at least 200,000 have fled Aleppo as intense fighting between government forces and rebels continues. Forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad initiated a ground assault on Saturday along with shelling and firing from fighter jets. United Nations humanitarian chief Baroness Valerie Amos said that those still in the city face shortages of food, water and power and are urgently in need of help; many have left their homes and sought shelters in schools.
The BBC’s Ian Pannell is in the Aleppo area and says that, while the army has superior resources, the rebels fighters are maintaining an effective guerilla war in the city’s streets. Syrian state television is claiming that regime forces have regained control of the Salah al-Din neighborhood in Aleppo’s south-west but activists dispute these claims.
Other developments reported in the BBC offer further signs that support for Assad’s regime is slowly slipping away. Syria’s most senior diplomat in London, Charge d-Affaires Khaled al-Ayoubi, says that he has left his post as he will no longer represent a regime that has “committed such violent and oppressive acts against its own people.” Twelve police officers, including the head of the coastal city of Latakia’s police force, have reportedly fled to Turkey which is sending reinforcements to the Syrian border.
The UN Security Council has been deadlocked for months over how to address the crisis in Syria through diplomatic means. France is to take over the council’s leadership this week and Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, who has referred to Assad as an “executioner,” has stated that “We must try everything even though Russia and China have blocked resolutions on three separate occasions.” Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev has still indicated that compromise might be possible.
US Defense Minister Leon Panetta, who is on five-day tour of the Middle East, says that Assad’s assault on Aleppo is “a nail in the coffin” for his regime.
But what may ultimately spell the end for Assad is the bite of more and more sanctions that have been imposed on the country. According to Bloomberg, the US has had restrictions against Syria dating back to 2004 and the European Union placed sanctions on Syria in May 2011, two months after the first popular protests were held against Assad in the southern of Dera’a in mid-March. In July, US Secretary of State said that Syria’s currency and foreign reserves had “collapsed,” with sanctions on oil along costing Assad’s regime billions of dollars. Trade, bank lending and tourism have all been severely curtailed since the uprising began and essentials such as cooking fuel are now being rationed to people standing in long lines.
The United Nations gives these figures about where Syrians have fled in the 16-month uprising (with links to BBC coverage):
In addition, at least one million people have displaced within Syria’s own borders.
Related Care2 Coverage