As anticipated, the unilateral ceasefire declared by the Syrians and the Russians in Aleppo has not been extended beyond Saturday, and fighting in the city between the Syrian army and its allies, and Al-Qaeda (“Jabhat Al-Nusra”) and its allies, has resumed with a vengeance.
On its own terms the experiment with the unilateral ceasefire has been a failure. Neither the Al-Qaeda fighters in the Jihadi controlled pocket of eastern Aleppo nor any of the other Jihadi fighters there have left by way of the ‘humanitarian corridors’, and Al-Qaeda also successfully prevented those civilians who wanted to leave eastern Aleppo by way of the ‘humanitarian corridors’ from doing so. Al-Qaeda also successfully blocked aid deliveries to eastern Aleppo.
Given the sort of people they are fighting in eastern Aleppo, it is doubtful the Syrians or the Russians ever really believed the ceasefire would succeed on its own terms.
As discussed previously, it should be seen principally for what it surely was: an exercise in public relations, intended to make the Russians’ position stronger when future demands for ceasefires are made by the West, demonstrating that it is the intransigence of the Jihadi fighters in eastern Aleppo which actually make ceasefires and aid deliveries to eastern Aleppo impossible.
In my opinion it is unlikely there will be any more ceasefires in eastern Aleppo.
There are reports of more Syrian troops being sent to the city, possibly in order to repel another Jihadi counter-offensive by 1,200 Jihadi fighters supposedly being prepared to relieve the pocket, but equally plausibly to complete the storming of eastern Aleppo.
By some accounts already approximately a fifth of the formerly Jihadi controlled pocket of eastern Aleppo has been recaptured by the Syrian army over the course of this month.
Significantly the Syrian military during the ceasefire apparently dropped thousands of leaflets onto eastern Aleppo urging the Jihadi fighters trapped there to take advantage of the ceasefire to quit the pocket.
The leaflets apparently advised the Jihadi fighters “to take the chance to end their difficult situation and leave the Eastern Aleppo districts”. The clear implication is that this was their last chance to do so.
Whilst is is likely further Jihadi attacks on Aleppo will take place over the next few days intended to break the siege there, Iranian reports suggest the true hope of the Jihadis trapped in eastern Aleppo is that Turkey will come to their rescue by intervening to break the siege.
This is not an entirely fanciful hope. Turkey has been the main backer of the Jihadis fighting the Syrian government, and since the intervention in August the Turkish military has become deeply entrenched in northern Syria, and is in some places close to being in artillery range of Aleppo.
A direct Turkish intervention to break the siege would however bring the Turkish military into direct conflict not just with the Syrian army but with the Russian military as well.
Though relations between Damascus and Ankara have been steadily deteriorating over the last few weeks, with the Syrians complaining increasingly about Operation Euphrates Shield and threatening to shoot down Turkish aircraft, I doubt Erdogan would be willing to take on the huge risks of directly confronting the Russian military in Syria, thereby ending his rapprochement with his “friend” Putin just a few weeks after it was launched.
If that is right then the Turks will stay away from Aleppo – as they have supposedly agreed with the Russians they will do – and will concentrate instead on building up their “safe zone” in north east Syria.
This is in accord with the Turkish government’s public statements, which have said very little about Aleppo.
It is also in accord with reports in the Middle East media that Turkey actually wants the Jihadis to leave eastern Aleppo so they can be redeployed to the Turkish controlled “safe zone”, consolidating the Turkish military’s grip there.
If all this is correct then Jihadi hopes of the Turkish army coming to their rescue in eastern Aleppo are going to be confounded. In that case their fate is sealed.