Turkish and Russian diplomats will meet as planned to discuss Aleppo amidst rift.

Diplomats from Turkey and Russia will meet as planned on Tuesday to discuss the situation in the besieged Syrian city of Aleppo, one day after the assassination of Russia’s ambassador to Turkey.

On Monday night, a Turkish police officer fired several shots at Andrey Karlov as the Russian envoy opened an art exhibition in Ankara, shouting “Do not forget Aleppo! Do not forget Syria.”
The assassination came at a time of thawing relations between Russia and Turkey, and at a pivotal moment for the war in Syria, where Russia has been instrumental in President Bashar al-Assad’s push to retake rebel-held areas.
Six people have been taken in for questioning in relation to the shooting, including five members of the gunman’s family and one flatmate, according to Turkish state news agency Anadolu.

Embassies closed in Turkey

All US embassy and consulates in Turkey were to be closed Tuesday following a separate incident, hours after the assassination.
Turkish police arrested a man who fired into the air with a shotgun outside the US Embassy in Ankara, Anadolu reported.
Video fed by Turkish video news agency IHA showed a handcuffed man being led by security officers into an unmarked police car as he shouted “I swear to God. Don’t play with us,” in Turkish. No one was injured.

How the shooting happened

The man who opened fire on the ambassador was identified as police officer Mevlut Mert Altintas.
He was killed soon after the Monday attack at the Cagdas Sanat Merkezi modern arts center in the heart of Ankara, at a neighborhood of foreign embassies including the US and Russia.
Karlov, envoy to Turkey since 2013, had been invited to speak at a photography exhibit opening featuring the work of Turkish photographers in the Russian countryside.
Altintas, wearing a dark suit, fired shots in rapid succession at Karlov’s back. The gunman circled his body, visibly agitated as he smashed photos hanging on the wall, said Associated Press photographer Burhan Ozbilici.
“Allahu akbar (God is greatest). Do not forget Aleppo! Do not forget Syria! Do not forget Aleppo! Do not forget Syria!” Altintas is heard shouting in video of the incident.
“Only death will remove me from here. Everyone who has taken part in this oppression will one by one pay for it,” he said.

Shooting a ‘provocation’

The brazen attack was immediately denounced by both Turkish and Russian leaders as an effort to derail relations between the two countries, which they said would not succeed.
Russian President Vladimir Putin said the killing was clear “provocation” aimed at undermining not just the normalization of Russia-Turkish relations but the “peace process in Syria” promoted by Russia, Turkey, Iran and other countries.
“The only response we should offer to this murder is stepping up our fight against terror, and the criminals will feel the heat,” Putin said in televised remarks.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan echoed his sentiments, saying “the Russian government and the Turkish republic have the will to not fall into that provocation.”
Officials from both countries and Iran will meet to discuss issues in Syria Tuesday in Moscow.
On the same day, an 18-strong investigative team of Russia’s special agencies is scheduled to arrive in Turkey to help authorities with their inquiries, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told state-run TASS on Tuesday.
“The important thing is to understand who is behind this crime,” Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said.
“We are convinced that the main goal of those who planned this barbaric act [is] to undermine the process of normalization of relations between Russia and Turkey, largely in order to prevent an effective fight against terrorism in Syria. This goal is futile. It will not work.”
Emergency vehicles respond to the shooting of the Russian ambassador to Turkey.

Russia and Turkey’s role in Syria

Russia has been denounced by human rights groups and several countries over its backing of the Syrian president.
It is the most powerful ally of Assad’s regime and has carried out airstrikes since September 2015 to prop up the embattled leader. As one of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council, Russia has also used its veto powers to block a political solution to end the war.
Analyst: More violence to come in Turkey

Turkey’s deadly year

The shooting of the ambassador is the latest in a long string of attacks in Turkey this year, although it’s the first in recent memory to be directed at a foreign dignitary.
Russia slapped a raft of sanctions on Turkey after the deadly incident, hurting Turkish exports and damaging its tourism industry.
The relationship began to thaw in June, when Erdogan wrote a letter expressing “regret” to the dead pilot’s family.
When Erdogan faced down an attempted military coup in July, Putin was among the first world leaders to call and offer his support.
Erdogan and Putin have spoken several times on the phone in recent weeks as they worked to reach a deal to evacuate civilians from eastern Aleppo.

UPDATE: Russian Ambassador Shot in Turkey is Dead, Shooter Claims Revenge for Aleppo.

Russia’s ambassador to Turkey, Andrey Karlov, is reportedly dead after he was shot by a gunman at an art gallery in Ankara. According to reports, several others were injured in the attack, which comes as protests are taking place in the country over Russia’s involvement in the Syrian civil war.



According to the BBC, the gunman, who was dressed in a suit, shouted, “Don’t forget about Aleppo, don’t forget about Syria,” and added: “Allahu Akhbar.” Karlov was speaking at an event (“How Turkey sees Russia”) at the gallery when he was shot from behind and collapsed.



CNN Turk reported that shots could still be heard from the area where Karlov was taken down, and that a shootout ensued between police and the attacker. According to his official bio, Karlov was an experienced diplomat who previously served in Russia’s embassies in North Korea and South Korea. He was in his current post since July 2013, and was married and had a son.

Putin Calls For Syria Ceasefire As #Aleppo Evacuations Continue

A nationwide ceasefire is the next step to restore peace in Syria after the recapture of Aleppo in the country’s north, Russian President Vladimir Putin told reporters at press conference in Japan on Friday.

As he spoke, thousands of civilians and rebel soldiers continued to flee Aleppo in convoys as the second day of evacuations within an agreed ceasefire began on Friday.
Up to 9,000 people have already been taken out of the besieged city in nine convoys since Thursday, including 108 wounded, according to Russian and Syrian state media.
For many of those leaving, their destination will be the rebel-controlled Syrian province of Idlib — likely the Bashar al-Assad regime’s next target.
An activist working inside the city broke down talking to CNN reporters on Friday, saying he wasn’t sure if his children would ever return to Aleppo.
“We waited for the international community and the United Nations to punish the criminal and not the victims (the people). Unfortunately the punishment was for the people. They have displaced us from our land,” he said.
“Honestly I don’t know if we can return back someday to our land or if it is going to be like the fate of the Palestinians.”
Read More: CNN

Aleppo: New ceasefire reached to allow rebel evacuation

Syrian rebel groups have said a ceasefire agreement has been reached in war-torn Aleppo, while a pro-government militia has said the evacuation of opposition fighters will take place in “coming hours”.

On Thursday morning, a media outlet run by the Lebanese armed group Hezbollah, a close ally of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, reported that a ceasefire had been reached and that rebel groups will be allowed to evacuate besieged pockets of eastern Aleppo.

Hezbollah had previously denied reports of an agreement, citing “big complications” during negotiations.

Officials from the Nureddin al-Zinki and the Ahrar al-Sham rebel groups confirmed to AFP news agency that a new truce deal had come into effect after hours of violence on Wednesday.

The UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said hostilities were ongoing after an earlier agreement brokered by Russia and Turkey collapsed.

Under the initial plan, thousands of civilians and rebel fighters were due early on Wednesday to evacuate the east of Syria’s second city, scene of some of the worst violence in more than five years of war across the country.

The delay came on Wednesday morning when pro-government Shia militias demanded that civilians in Kafraya and al-Fua – two towns besieged by armed opposition groups – be evacuated, as well.

‘Dead lying in the street’

But cold and hungry civilians who had gathered before dawn to leave were turned away by pro-government militias.

“Bombing is ongoing, no one can move. Everyone is hiding and terrified,” activist Mohammad al-Khatib told AFP from inside east Aleppo.

“The wounded and dead are lying in the street. No one dares to try and retrieve the bodies.”

Syrian state television said rebel rocket fire on government-controlled areas also had killed at least seven people.

Former al-Qaeda affiliate Jabhat Fateh al-Sham said on Wednesday that one of its suicide bombers detonated a car bomb at a regime position in southern Aleppo.

Turkey said it would meet with Russia and Iran in Moscow on December 27 to discuss a political solution to the conflict in Syria.

Syria’s army has pressed a month-long assault that has seen it take more than 90 percent of the former rebel stronghold in east Aleppo.

Turkey has said those leaving would be taken to Idlib province, which is controlled by a powerful rebel alliance that includes Jabhat Fateh al-Sham.

Sharif Nashashibi, a writer and Middle East analyst, said the Syrian government’s advances in Aleppo had created “a sense of emboldenment, that they can do what they want”.

“However, at least part of the impetus of this was the fence-mending process between Turkey and Russia, which brokered the ceasefire,” he told Al Jazeera. “If the ceasefire works it will contribute to that process, but if it fails it will strain it.”

Summary executions

The UN said on Tuesday that it had credible reports of at least 82 civilians, including 11 women and 13 children, being executed in recent days.

And the UN’s Commission of Inquiry for Syria said it had received reports opposition fighters were blocking civilians from fleeing Aleppo and using them as human shields.

Aleppo, a cultural and economic hub second only to Damascus in importance, had been split between a rebel-controlled east and government-held west since 2012.

It was unclear how many civilians remained in rebel territory, after an estimated 130,000 fled to other parts of Aleppo during the government advance since mid-November.

Syria’s conflict has evolved from largely unarmed protests against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad into a full-scale civil war that has killed hundreds of thousands and displaced more than half of the country’s prewar population.

Marwan Kabalan, a Syria analyst and associate political analyst at the Doha Institute, said he expects the Syrian government to focus its attacks on the Damascus suburbs after the fall of Aleppo.

“I think the regime will turn next to targeting the Damascus suburbs,” he told Al Jazeera. “Idlib is becoming a point of exile for fighters … I think it will remain like this till the very end [of the conflict].

“For now, the top priority for the international community and the opposition is to get the civilians evacuated from [eastern Aleppo].”

#Aleppo Evacuation Delayed, Opposition Blames Pro-Assad Militia

The evacuation of rebel-held eastern Aleppo was delayed on Wednesday and, while a war monitor said the reason was unclear, an opposition official blamed Shi’ite militias allied to President Bashar al-Assad for the hold up.

A ceasefire agreement brokered by Russia, Assad’s most powerful ally, and Turkey ended years of fighting in the city and has given Assad his biggest victory yet after more than five years of war.

Officials in the military alliance fighting in support of Assad could not be reached immediately for comment on why the evacuation was delayed.

Sources on Tuesday had given different expected start times for the evacuation. A military official in the pro-Assad alliance had said the evacuation was due to start at 5 a.m. (0300 GMT), while opposition officials had been expecting a first group of wounded people to leave earlier.

However, none had left by dawn, said a Reuters witness waiting at the agreed point of departure. Twenty buses were waiting there with their engines running but showed no sign of moving into Aleppo’s rebel-held eastern districts.

“There is certainly a delay,” said Rami Abdulrahman, director of the Syrian Observatory, a war monitor.

Officials with Aleppo-based rebel groups accused Shi’ite militias backed by Iran of obstructing implementation of the Russian-brokered deal. The pro-opposition Orient TV cited the negotiation committee in eastern Aleppo as saying there was no clear reason why the wounded had yet to be evacuated.

Assad has been backed by an array of Shi’ite militias from across the region in his campaign for Aleppo.

Read More: reuters

Rebel fire on Syria’s Aleppo kills 7 children.

The news agency reported additional rebel fire on other parts of west Aleppo, which is regularly targeted by the opposition forces that hold the eastern part of the divided city.


The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based monitor, gave a toll of eight children killed, aged between six and 12.


An AFP photographer at the school shortly after the attack saw adults rushing children away from the building and trying to comfort crying infants.


State television showed some of the wounded being treated in a hospital, including a child in a blue top whose face was covered in blood being attended on a stretcher.


In a corridor, a young boy in a red T-shirt with his arm in a make-shift sling was shepherded by his distraught mother, as another boy with his head bandaged was carried in.


Government forces are currently waging a ferocious assault against east Aleppo, targeting it with air strikes, barrel bombs and artillery fire.


They renewed their fire on the east on Tuesday, after a period of relative respite, in a bid to recapture the rebel-held side of the city.


The Observatory says at least 103 civilians have been killed in east Aleppo since government forces resumed the assault.

Turkish Army kills up to 200 YPG fighters in Aleppo.

The Turkish military said its fighter jets hit Syrian Kurdish targets in northern Syria, and killed up to 200 fighters, according to state media.

The jets hit 18 targets in Maarrat Umm Hawsh, a region north of the city of Aleppo, the official news agency Anadolu said.

Quoting the army, the report claimed that between 160 and 200 fighters from the YPG (People’s Protection Units) group were killed in the raids on Wednesday night.

A Syrian-Kurdish forces leader, however, said that while Turkish jets and artillery were attacking, no more than 10 fighters had been killed so far.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a monitoring group, said at least nine YPG fighters were confirmed killed and 26 people were injured in some 20 raids.

Anadolu said nine buildings used as YPG headquarters, meeting points, shelters and weapons depots were destroyed as well as four vehicles.

Al Jazeera was unable to independently verify the death toll.

The Anadolu report said the YPG had attacked Turkish-backed Syrian rebels. However, the Observatory said it had no information on such an incident.

In August, Turkey launched a ground operation in northern Syria, targeting the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as ISIS) group and the YPG, and continues to maintain a military presence in the neighbouring country.

The US considers the YPG to be a key force in the fight against ISIL in Syria.

Turkey says the group is an extension of its own outlawed Kurdish fighters – the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) – who have carried out a series of deadly attacks in Turkey over the past year.

US-Turkey tensions

Tensions between Turkey and the US have increased over the YPG, but Ankara has repeatedly said it will not allow a “terror corridor” on its southern border and wants to prevent the joining of the Kurdish “cantons” of Afrin and Kobane.

Turkey entered the Syrian war to try and remove ISIL from its border – which last month Ankara said it achieved – while also aiming to halt the westward advance of the YPG.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Wednesday that Turkey would not “wait for terrorist organisations to come and attack us” during a speech in Ankara.

“These organisations, wherever their activities are, wherever they are nesting, we will go [there],” he said.

Russian Air Raids Kill 55 In #Aleppo

At least 55 people have been killed over the past 24 hours in the Syrian province of Aleppo as Russian air strikes resumed over the countryside, sources told Al Jazeera.

The deaths from raids in Aleppo’s Bustan al-Qasr and Fardos neighbourhoods, as well as Ar-Rasheeqa city, were the results of the heaviest Russian bombardment in days on the city’s rebel-held sector. Dozens were also wounded.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based monitor, reported a lull in fighting on Wednesday.

“Silence is taking over Aleppo city, so far no gunshots or airstrikes have been heard, since the airstrike[s],” the monitor said.

Heightened tensions on the ground came amid efforts from the international community to halt the bloodshed in Aleppo.

Al Jazeera has seen a letter signed by at least 62 countries including Saudi and Qatar, but excluding Egypt and Iraq, calling on the UN Security Council to prevent further deaths from a “calculated campaign”.

The letter warns that the war in Syria is unlikely to be resolved by armies. It called on all parties to adopt political processes for a political transition based on recommendations agreed upon at Geneva conventions and by the Security Council.

“The fighting, the bombardment and the siege have worsened conditions inside Aleppo,” said Al Jazeera’s Zeina Khodr, reporting from the Turkish border with Syria.

“The United Nations is warning that drinking water remains limited, medical supplies are urgently needed and the distribution food rations are being split in half … aid agencies are appealing for access to treat the wounded,” Khodr added.

Read More: aljazeera

Those Bombing #Aleppo ‘Must Answer To God’- Pope

Pope Francis has decried the bombing of Aleppo in Syria, saying those responsible for killing civilians will have to answer to God.

Speaking at his public audience in St Peter’s Square in Rome, he called it “an already martyred city, where everybody is dying”.

Russian-backed Syrian government forces have launched a fierce campaign to take back rebel-held parts of Aleppo.

Airstrikes continued to hit the besieged northern city overnight.

Pope Francis urged all sides to “commit themselves with all their strength to protect civilians”.

“This is an imperative and urgent obligation. I appeal to the consciences of those responsible for the bombings, who will one day will have to account to God,” he said.

Read More: BBC

Putin, Erdogan Discuss #Aleppo Over Phone

Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan have discussed the Syria conflict in a phone conversation, the Kremlin says.

They agreed to continue coordinating efforts to achieve a resolution in Syria, it said in a statement on Friday.

Turkey’s Anadolu news agency said Erdogan told Putin that it was essential to agree to a ceasefire in Aleppo “as soon as possible.”

The Syrian army has put foreign-backed militants under siege in Aleppo and now hopes to capture the whole city in what would be a devastating blow to the country’s enemies.

Turkey and other countries opposed to the Syrian government have intensified their parleys, putting forth a proposal through the “opposition” which they support, for Assad to step down.

Anadolu said Ankara is hoping a ceasefire will be implemented in Aleppo for the Feast of the Sacrifice (Eid al-Adha) Islamic holiday which in Turkey begins around September 12.

Erdogan had met separately with Putin and US President Barack Obama on the sidelines of the recent G20 meeting in China, telling them both that it was essential to agree to a truce for Aleppo.

Read More: presstv

Syria Denies Dropping Chlorine Gas On #Aleppo

The Syrian government has denied claims it dropped barrels of chemical weapons on an opposition-held neighbourhood in Aleppo city that has caused at least one death and dozens of cases of suffocation.

The UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which tracks daily developments in the Syrian war, said more than 70 people in Sukkari were left choking and needed treatment after the dropping of barrel bombs by Syrian government helicopters.

The Syrian government has vigorously denied using chemical bombs.

The UN said it was investigating this allegation.

“Accusations by the opposition that the Syrian government dropped chlorine gas in a barrel bomb on Aleppo are likely to further increase tension in the city that is now besieged by government troops,” our correspondent said.

“The UN said that they have been investigating reports of what they believed to be chlorine gas dropped on Aleppo; they say if those accusations are confirmed that would amount to war crimes.”

Read More: aljazeera

Syrian Forces ‘Drop Chlorine’ On #Aleppo

Syrian government forces have been accused of dropping barrel bombs containing chlorine from helicopters on a suburb of Aleppo, injuring 80 people.

Volunteer emergency workers say people suffered breathing difficulties after an attack on the Sukkari area.

The reports could not be independently verified. A UN-led inquiry concluded last month the that government had used chlorine on at least two occasions.

The Syrian government has always denied using chemical weapons.

It comes as Syrian opposition leaders prepare to meet in London on Wednesday to launch a new plan for a political transition to try to end the five-year civil war.

The umbrella group representing opposition factions, the High Negotiations Committee, will be hosted by UK Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson.

Foreign ministers from the Friends of Syria group of countries, which have supported the rebellion against President Bashar al-Assad, will also attend.

Read More: BBC

U.N. Calls For 48-Hour Ceasefire In Aleppo To Avoid Humanitarian Catastrophe

The U.N. humanitarian chief on Monday urged all combatants in Aleppo to agree to a 48-hour pause to allow delivery of desperately needed aid, warning that otherwise the world risks seeing a “humanitarian catastrophe unparalleled in the over five years of bloodshed” in Syria.

Stephen O’Brien said Aleppo is being bombed every day, including a dozen new attacks on Monday, and has become “the apex of horror” in “the greatest crisis of our time.”

He told the U.N. Security Council, which has been deeply divided over Syria, that “you have the power with a pen — a simple pen stroke — to allow food to people.”

O’Brien said the U.N. asked to deliver aid to nearly 1 million people in besieged and hard-to-reach areas in August, but the Syrian government approved less than 50 percent of the requests, denying aid to rebel-held eastern Aleppo and several other besieged areas.

O’Brien said that not one aid convoy has moved yet due to fighting, insecurity and bureaucratic requirements, and the end of the month is just nine days away.

Russia, a close ally of Syrian President Bashar Assad’s government, said last Thursday it was ready to back the U.N. call for weekly 48-hour cease-fires in Aleppo, provided aid convoys travel to both rebel-controlled and government-controlled parts of the city.

U.S. deputy ambassador Michele Sison reiterated American support for the humanitarian pauses in her speech to the council, saying “it is imperative that all armed groups in Aleppo respect these pauses.” She urged Russia to follow its unilateral declaration “with genuine steps to support regular and sustained access to Aleppo.”

O’Brien welcomed the Russian announcement but also stressed that “we need the agreement of all parties to let us do our job.”

“In Aleppo we risk seeing a humanitarian catastrophe unparalleled in the over five years of bloodshed and carnage in the Syrian conflict,” he said. “Once again, I cannot stress strongly enough the need for a 48-hour pause in fighting to be approved by all sides and come into effect, so that safe and sustained humanitarian access is opened to all areas of Aleppo.”

The U.N. humanitarian chief said he and his office are working with all sides seeking to ensure that the Russian offer can be turned into “a comprehensive pause.”

Rebel-held eastern Aleppo, where up to 275,000 people live, has been almost entirely cut off from vital supplies including food, water, medicine and electricity for over a month, O’Brien said, while access to the estimated 1.5 million people in government-controlled western Aleppo “remains extremely difficult.”

The U.N. has found a new route into western Aleppo and has delivered some aid, and it is preparing 20 trucks to deliver food and other supplies to eastern Aleppo as soon as a cease-fire takes place, he said.

“This is a race against time, as fighting rages on, with ever more shocking reports of bombed hospitals and wrecked schools,” O’Brien said. “Electricity is out, water is scarce, and movement is restricted.”

He repeated his appeals for U.N. action, not just on Aleppo, but to end the war in Syria saying: “When hospital attacks have become the new normal, when medieval sieges of entire cities and neighborhoods have become a lasting reality for hundreds of thousands of people, this council cannot look the other way.”

Russia’s U.N. Ambassador Vitaly Churkin urged all those with influence to spur the opposition to move forward to a political settlement.

“Without that and without effectively combatting terrorism the necessary radical improvement in the humanitarian situation in Syria is impossible,” Churkin said.

Syria’s U.N. Ambassador Bashar Ja’afari agreed, stressing that a political solution must be Syrian-led “without any external preconditions or interference” and must be parallel to “fighting terrorism.”

Credit: AP/ Time