After Aleppo: Civilian areas targeted by pro regime forces

Report by the Secretariat to the All-Party Parliamentary Group Friends of Syria, 2 January 2017.

View and download the report (PDF).


Summary

How and why civilian areas are being targeted, and how the UK might consider responding.

Following the forced displacement of residents from eastern Aleppo city by the combined forces of Russia, Iran, Hezbollah, and the Assad regime, this report looks at which communities will be targeted next.

The most recent Siege Watch report points to Al-Waer in Homs, Douma in Eastern Ghouta, and Madaya, Zabadani and Wadi Barada between Damascus and the Lebanese border, as being at particular risk. The last three named—Madaya, Zabadani and Wadi Barada—are besieged by Hezbollah, a Lebanese terrorist organisation proscribed by the UK and its allies. Hezbollah fights in support of the Assad regime and is dependent on Iran for military supplies. These three besieged areas are of particular strategic interest to Hezbollah as they lie along its military supply line from Damascus to Lebanon.

The Russian-Turkish brokered ceasefire of 30th December has in its first days been repeatedly violated by Hezbollah and the Assad regime as they continue to attack besieged areas, and in particular as they press the besieged areas between Damascus and the Lebanon border. Concern about disparities between different versions of the ceasefire text as well as ongoing violations by pro regime forces led the UK and other UN Security Council members to refrain from endorsing Russia’s text of the agreement. Instead UN Security Council Resolution 2336 took note of Russia’s agreement documents and stressed ‘the importance of the full implementation of all relevant Security Council resolutions,’ particularly 2254 and 2268.

A successful implementation of the 30th December ceasefire would be a great relief to civilians, were it to include in the besieged areas focused on in this report, and were it to include unhindered ground access for humanitarian aid as demanded in successive UN Security Council resolutions. However all signs are that the Assad regime and its allies fully intend to manipulate and violate the ceasefire so as to further their war aims of displacement and eradication of besieged civilian communities.

Options that the UK Government might now consider include pressing for a UN monitoring mission to areas under threat of forced displacement building on the precedent of the belated UN monitoring mission to Aleppo. However without some means of applying pressure, diplomatic calls for UN access are highly unlikely to be effective.

In order to press for a successful comprehensive ceasefire implementation, the UK Government might consider making active preparations for UK humanitarian aid deliveries by airdrop to besieged areas, whether by GPS guided systems dropped from a distance or by other RAF systems, including bringing any necessary motion before Parliament in order to carry out airdrops and to protect RAF crews carrying out aid deliveries.

Further options the UK Government might consider include preparing sanctions against Russia and Iran in the event that ceasefire violations continue, and extending the UK’s current antiterrorism mission in Syria to act against the Hizballah Military Wing in order to stop its attacks against civilian communities in Syria.

Read the full report.