By Anastasia Barysheva and Polina Chernitsa
The Syrian authorities have been bringing reinforcements to Aleppo following the attempts to seize the city by militants of the Free Syrian Army this week. Local residents are leaving the city.
More than 100,000 refugees have left the country and are living in border camps. Human rights campaigners describe the situation on the border as a humanitarian disaster. There has also been an info war over Syria’s chemical weapons.
Syria’s Foreign Ministry warned at the beginning of the week that the authorities might use chemical weapons. Western media picked up the story without paying attention to an important remark that Syria would resort to chemical weapons only in case of a foreign aggression. A spokesman for the Syrian Foreign Ministry underscored that all stockpiles of weapons were under control and the weapons in question would not be used against the opposition. Nevertheless, the US quickly sounded alarm saying that chemical weapons posed a serious danger given the Syrian government’s continuing attacks against the Syrian people. Washington kept silent on the escalation of violence from the rebels. This, and the unwillingness by a number of western countries to condemn the terrorist act in Damascus on July 18th has been described by Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov as a justification of terrorism.
“The US representative in the UN Susan Rice mentioned the terrorist act as evidence that the Security Council could not delay the adoption of a resolution on Syria on the basis of Chapter 7. In other words, the US will support such terrorist acts until the Security Council passes such a resolution. Victoria Nuland chimed in by saying that the opposition was forced to resort to terrorist acts because of the brutal actions on the part of the Assad regime.”
The US State Department tried to clarify its position after Lavrov’s statement on Tuesday. Mrs.Nuland said that the US condemned the terrorist act but partially. The US, she said, had always condemned violence in Syria but unlike the previous acts of violence, the July 18 act killed those responsible for this violence.
Meanwhile, the situation near the Syrian-Turkish border has reached a critical point. More than 10 refugee camps have been organized in border areas, each accommodating 10,000 people. Residents of the camps are complaining about water shortages and poor sanitation. According to Turkish media, Syrians are denied the refugee status which strips them of any rights. As the camps are located in economically poor areas of southeast Turkey, people’s discontent over poor living conditions has already led to clashes which had to be quelled with the help of the army and armored personnel carriers in some areas. Oriental Studies expert Andrei Volodin says that the current crisis could cause a humanitarian and political outburst in Turkey.
“Turkey’s restive areas will hardly stay away from the developments. Anti-government groups might take advantage of the situation and rally against the Turkish government. For this reason, it’d be better to put an end to all military operations on the territory of Syria rather than talk about the forthcoming humanitarian disaster.”
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Turkey closed the border with Syria on Wednesday. Now, experts have been warning about the threat of Syrian violence spilling over to Lebanon. Reports from Lebanon say there have been clashes between Hezbollah militants and groups that support rebels in Syria.
Aleppo has become the scene of fierce clashes between government and rebel forces recently. Militants from the Free Syrian Army attempted to seize the city having penetrated into the region via the border with Turkey. Media and experts say that the current confrontation could be decisive for the country’s future. Opposition forces are set on turning the city into an equivalent of Libya’s Benghazi from which Gaddafi’s opponents advanced on Tripoli. Aleppo’s residents, most of them supporters of the country’s leadership, say that the militants have been instilling terror taking people hostage and using them as human shields.