Rebels Fume as Syrian Army Breaks al-Qaeda’s Siege on Northern Shi’ite Towns

Western Officials Present Offensive as Threat to Peace Talks

Backed by Russian airstrikes and supported by a host of allied militias, the Syrian Army today finally broke the siege against the towns of Nubul and Zahraa, two northern Aleppo Province Shi’ite towns which have been surrounded by al-Qaeda’s Nusra Front and other rebel factions for years.

North of the city of Aleppo, and near the key border crossing of Azaz, the small Shi’ite enclave is in a dangerous area during the period of civil war, though the counteroffensive that led to the siege’s end also put the Syrian military in control of some key supply routes into those important nearby cities.

That’s led the rebel groups at the Geneva peace talks to condemn the Syrian gains, and has Western offiicals lashing the effort as well, with French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius terming the offensive that broke the siege “brutal,” and accused it of “torpedoing peace efforts.”

The rebels went into the peace talks with a flurry of demands, including a full ceasefire, though none of those demands was ever formally agreed to. Ironically, one of their demands was to end the siege of Syrian towns, something which they presumably only intended to see happen to the rebel-held towns surrounded by the military, and not vice versa.

The UN also criticized the offensive, saying it displaced “hundreds” of civilians from towns near the area. It did, however, end up freeing an estimated 60,000 civilians from siege conditions, so it’s going to be difficult for them to spin as a major humanitarian blow.

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Author: Jason Ditz

Jason Ditz is news editor of Antiwar.com.