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Analysts: Humanitarian pause in Aleppo should continue, but war on terror must go on

November 02, 2016, 19:47 UTC+3 MOSCOW

All loopholes for bringing weapons and ammunition to militants inside Aleppo must be plugged, the analysts have stated

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© Valery Sharifulin/TASS

MOSCOW, November 2. /TASS/. The humanitarian pause in Aleppo must be prolonged, while the struggle against terrorists should go on, polled analysts have told TASS.

Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday instructed the Russian military to introduce a humanitarian pause in Aleppo from 09:00 to 19:00 on November 4. The decision was agreed with the Syrian leadership. The chief of Russia’s General Staff, Valery Gerasimov, said that all of the humanitarian corridors the Russian center for reconciliation in Syria had created would be open to both civilians and militants. The terrorists have sustained heavy losses, he added, and there was no chance for them to break out of the city.

Militants are given another chance to leave Aleppo

The head of the Institute of Religion and Politics, Aleksandr Ignatenko, has said that Jabhat al-Nusra members (the organization is outlawed in Russia) and the groups that have merged with it have in fact torpedoed the October 18 moratorium on air strikes in the area of Aleppo, although Russia and the Syrian leadership had taken all necessary measures to let both civilians and armed groups leave the city.

"Several days ago the leaders of Jabhat Fateh al-Sham (former Jabhat al-Nusra) and ten other groups that had joined it addressed the residents of eastern Aleppo, held by the militants, with a call not to leave their homes. I have a copy of that message. As a matter of fact, the militants have taken civilians hostage in order to use them as a shield against possible artillery and air strikes," Ignatenko said.

"In a situation like this it was decided to prolong the humanitarian pause in Aleppo, although everybody understands that the terrorists have to be fought against. But they will have a chance to leave the city together with their families using the offered corridors, precisely the way some 800 people (militants and their families) were evacuated from the southern suburb of Damascus, Darayya, in a UN-sponsored operation," Ignatenko said.

Civilian casualties to be avoided

"I cannot but feel surprise when I hear some analysts say in various talk shows on federal TV channels that Aleppo should have been stormed long before. These people have a very vague idea of how military operations are conducted in practice. I was in charge of the first military campaign in Chechnya and I know that storming a city without firmly sealing it off first would be a hopeless affair. Otherwise tremendous civilian casualties will be unavoidable," the president of the Military Commanders’ Club, General Anatoly Kulikov, told TASS.

Aleppo’s perimeter borderline is 55 kilometers long.

"Surrounding the city tightly enough will take at least two mechanized infantry divisions - 25,000 troops with the standard amount of weapons and also assault groups and commando units. We do not know if the Syrian army has enough resources. In this situation it would be impermissible to order planes into the air to carry out carpet bombings. The air strikes moratorium should be prolonged and operations against militants continued," Kulikov said.

Likely measures

The leading research fellow at the Center for International Security at the Russian Academy of Sciences’ institute of world economy and international relations IMEMO, Stanislav Ivanov, believes that over the several years of war against the Islamic State (outlawed in Russia) Kurdish militias have earned acclaim as the bravest fighters against terrorists. They have been very successful in protecting their areas from militants.

Ivanov says the Russian leadership has been trying to persuade Damascus through diplomatic channels to establish a direct dialogue with the Kurdish militias for joint struggle against the terrorists in exchange of guarantees of a Kurdish autonomy in post-war Syria.

"But the question remains unresolved, although over the years of civil war and struggle against the Islamic State the strength of Bashar Assad’s army has shrunk from 350,000 to 60,000. Another 7,000 fighters from Lebanon’s Hezbollah and several thousand of Iranian commandoes from the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps have been fighting on the Damascus side on a rotation basis. Should the Kurdish militias join that coalition, the potential for conducting a ground operation against the terrorists would grow considerably," Ivanov said.

General Kulikov remarked that the task of the Russian aerospace group-backed Syrian army units should be to prevent Jabhat al-Nusra militants from the expanding positions they control in Aleppo.

"The terrorists must be isolated. All loopholes for bringing weapons and ammunition to militants inside Aleppo must be plugged. Every resource, including combat operations, should be used to this end," Kulikov said.

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