According to newswire reports this morning, President Bashar al-Assad’s forces have renewed their ground and aerial bombardment of Aleppo in an effort to crush rebels in Syria’s largest city, in what the US said it fears could become a massacre.
The US State Department have said credible reports of tank columns moving on Aleppo, along with air strikes by helicopters and jet fighters, represent a serious escalation of Assad’s efforts to crush the rebellion that began 16 months ago. “This is the concern: that we will see a massacre in Aleppo, and that’s what the regime appears to be lining up for,” State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said.
Thirty-four people were killed in Aleppo and its environs on Thursday, according to opposition activists keeping a tally of casualties in the northern city.
The heavy fighting around Aleppo follows a suicide bombing attack that killed four of Assad’s closest lieutenants in Damascus on 18 July and led some regional analysts to speculate that the government’s grip on power was slipping.
Nevertheless, with UN Security Council resolutions for sanctions against Syria vetoed by Russia and China for a third time last week, and the US decision to keep on providing the rebels with only non-lethal supplies, such as communications gear and medical equipment, the government’s collapse seems less likely and intense fighting is set to continue.
Meanwhile, in Israel over the past week, the IDF has stepped up work on the Golan Heights border, in preparation for the possibility of infiltrators concealing themselves among refugees attempting to cross the border into Israel.
Israeli troops on the Golan Heights have not been largely reinforced, but in light of tension on the border the IDF has put in place a system for a rapid response in case a border incident takes place. In addition, the army is also preparing for the possibility of mass marches towards the border, following the events on Naksa Day and Nakba Day last year that turned violent.