by our Arab Affairs correspondent
SYRIAN REBEL forces launched a new offensive in Aleppo last weekend, destroying the city’s ancient market before they were driven out after two days of fighting. The Al Madina market was the largest covered market of its kind and a Unesco world heritage site. At least 500 shops and trade pavilions in the Old City of Aleppo, which trace their history back to the 14th century, have been turned to ashes as a result of fighting between the army and the Nato-backed rebels.
But the Syrian Army is joining forces with the civilian authorities to deliver food and medical aid to civilians caught up in the fighting. Last week troops helped to distribute aid to people in Nubl, a district on the outskirts of Aleppo, 350 km north of the capital, Damascus. Syrian Arab Army helicopters airlifted supplies to areas besieged by the Nato backed rebels. Residents in Nubl told Syrian TV that they were relieved to get the food and medical assistance, saying that the rebel assault on Aleppo had created an atmosphere of chaos and instability.
Meanwhile a top rebel commander and some of his men have defected to the government side. Colonel Khaled Abdel Rahman al Zamel of the “Free Syrian Army” announced that “the road is now open” for other rebels to declare their support for President Assad and abandon their uprising.
“We have decided to return to the army and cooperate with the Ministry of National Reconciliation,” Colonel Al Zamel said during a conference of noncombatant Syrian opposition groups last week.
“We are all Syrians. We reject a revolution that starts with the shedding of blood,” al-Zamel said.
“The solution can’t be achieved through holding weapons, bombings, sabotage or killing the innocent, but repenting from the wrongdoing and through political means,” Al Zamel said. He previously served as a captain in the Syrian Army, before joining the FSA months ago. He was the head of the FSA’s leadership in southern Syria, and the deputy chief of the rebels’ military council.
The appearance of al- Zamel and his men came as a surprise to the Damascus conference, organised by some 30 Syrian opposition groups with the aim of opening peaceful dialogue with the Syrian government to end the fighting. The gathering was attended by ambassadors from Russia and Iran, and China’s temporary charge d’affaires for Syria — three countries who have consistently supported the Assad government over the past 18- month uprising.
The conference of opposition groups in Damascus called on both the Syrian authorities and the rebels to immediately end violence in the country through an international peace plan.
But there’s still no sign of a diplomatic breakthrough. At the United Nations Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov again condemned the imperialists over their stance on Syria. “The states that encourage the opponents of Syrian President Bashar al- Assad to give up on the ceasefire and dialogue and to demand that the regime capitulate, bear responsibility for the continuing bloodshed,” he said. “Such an approach is unrealistic and encourages terrorism, which is used by the opposition.”
On Monday Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al- Muallem told the 67th Session of the UN General Assembly that some countries, under the guise of “humanitarian intervention”, were interfering in the internal affairs of Syria. He also noted that they are now using the excuse of humanitarian aid to request foreign military intervention against Syria.
Meanwhile the orchestrated hate campaign against Syria from the imperialist lie machine continues. Only last weekend western news agencies claimed that many people had been killed or injured after a powerful explosion in the Plaza of the Seven Fountains, near the Syrian Central Bank in central Damascus.
The blast supposedly occurred around 2:30 in the afternoon, but authorities said there were no explosions in or around that area over the weekend. Reporters on the spot confirmed that the area of central Damascus was normal, with people in the streets going about their daily business.
Syrian officials say that “witnesses” cited by the imperialist media are making up stories to feed to unsuspecting correspondents who then report it as “news.” They used as an example the burning of tyres on the rooftops of buildings to make it appear as if there had been aerial attacks.