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Syrian army recaptures falling military positions in Aleppo

Large numbers of the rebels were killed, while the rest were from positions they stormed an adjacent military college near the artillery base

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The Syrian army recaptured military positions in southern Aleppo province. Image Source: sputniknews.com
  • Large numbers of the rebels were killed, while the rest were from positions they stormed an adjacent military college near the artillery base
  • Meanwhile, pan-Arab al-Mayadeen TV cited its reporter in Aleppo as confirming that the rebel was no longer in control of any part of the military colleges
  • The aim of the rebels was to open a route from the al-Ramuseh town in south-west Aleppo into the besieged rebel-held areas in eastern Aleppo

The Syrian army recaptured military positions the rebels had stormed earlier on Saturday in southern Aleppo province in northern Syria, according to pan-Arab al-Mayadeen TV and a military source.

A military source told Xinhua on condition of annoying that the Syrian army restored positions the rebels stormed earlier in the day at the Artillery College base in the southern countryside of Aleppo.

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He added that large numbers of the rebels were killed, while the rest were from positions they stormed an adjacent military college near the artillery base.

The source said the Syrian forces and allied fighters are targeting the withdrawing rebels with heavy artillery.

Syrian army restored positions. Image Source: www.france24.com
Syrian army restored positions. Image Source: www.france24.com

Meanwhile, pan-Arab al-Mayadeen TV cited its reporter in Aleppo as confirming that the rebel was no longer in control of any part of the military colleges.

The TV also stated that the rebels could not take control over the al-Ramuseh town, whose control would enable them to break the government forces’ siege on the rebel-held eastern part of Aleppo.

Still, battles are still raging back and forth and the decisive results are yet to appear clearly.

Earlier in the day, the Syrian air force intensified airstrikes on the areas the rebels stormed inside the artillery collage, also cutting all routes the rebels could possibly open into Aleppo city, the national Syrian TV said.

The airstrikes destroyed tens of vehicles with their occupants on several routes that could lead the rebels into breaking the government siege on the eastern part of Aleppo city.

The report said the airstrikes isolated the battle sites in the vicinity of the military colleges in southern Aleppo, supporting the ground operations fought by the Syrian army against the sites infiltrated by the rebel groups in parts of the artillery college base.

“The airstrikes paralysed the movement of the terrorist groups south-west of Aleppo, cutting by fire all routes into the city,” said the TV.

 Syrian army intensified battles against the rebels in Aleppo. Image Source: Reuters
Syrian army intensified battles against the rebels in Aleppo. Image Source: Reuters

The fresh development came after an array of extremist groups, mainly the Fateh Army, succeeded to storm parts of the artillery college base in southern Aleppo, engaging in intense battles with the Syrian army in that base and the adjacent military colleges.

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The aim of the rebels was to open a route from the al-Ramuseh town in south-west Aleppo into the besieged rebel-held areas in eastern Aleppo.

Last month, the Syrian army intensified battles against the rebels in Aleppo, cutting their last supply route into the eastern part of that city, in a bid to force them to surrender.

But battles flared as several rebel groups in Aleppo unleashed repeated attacks to break that siege. (IANS)

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Syria: Small Group of Young Students Create Secret Library Deep Underneath Bullet-Ridden Building

Amid the bombing campaign between the Syrian regime and rebel forces in the Damascus suburb of Daraya

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Syria, Students, Library
Some members of the secret library team gather in their underrground sanctuary in Daraya, Syria. (Photo courtesy of Ahmad Ma'dmani). VOA

Amid the bombing campaign between the Syrian regime and rebel forces in the Damascus suburb of Daraya, a small group of young students tried to bring normalcy to the chaos by creating a secret library deep underneath a bullet-ridden building.

The library was built to create a safe shelter for residents to gather and read.

For months, Mike Thomson, a British-based journalist, documented the students’ efforts in his book “Syria’s Secret Library: Reading and Redemption in a Town Under Siege.”

“Most of the town was under sniper fire from the government soldiers who were based in high-rise buildings near the front lines,” Thomson told VOA about the operation.

Syria, Students, Library
Damaged buildings line the street in Daraya after bombardment by the Syrian regime. VOA

“They gathered these books under sniper fire and sometimes under shell fire. They brought ladders with them to climb from windows. It was a dangerous exercise they often did during the night,” Thomson said.

Daraya, a suburb located 8 kilometers to the southwest of the Syrian capital, was one of the first areas to witness protests against the Syrian regime in 2011. It soon became a rebel stronghold and a major center of battle. The town suffered a brutal siege and ongoing bombardment by Russian-backed Syrian government forces and allied militias from 2012 to 2016.

Collecting books

During the middle of the siege, basic needs such as food, water and medical supplies were banned from entering the town. It was then that a group of volunteer students teamed up to stock the underground library.

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For months, they stowed over 1,400 books for public access, with volumes rescued from Daraya’s public library that was destroyed in a fire caused by a shelling in 2013.

“The library had become everything from a meeting place, tea room, education center, community center and a book club, where everyone discussed a book they read. Because of the lack of books, not everyone could read the same book,” Thomson said.

The library contained a wide collection of local and world literature, covering areas of history, science, religion and culture, and complete sets of encyclopedias. It included popular plays of Shakespeare, books by Syrian poets like Adonis and Maram al-Masri, Agatha Christie’s translated works, and a Marxist interpretation of Islam by author Muhammad Imara.

‘The soul needs food’

Syria, Students, Library
Books are rescued from a bombed and abandoned building to be taken to a secret library in the town of Daraya, Syria. (Photo courtesy of Daraya Council Media Team). VOA

When asked by Thomson why a group of young Syrians living under daily bombardment decided to risk their lives searching for books, Abdul Basit, a lead volunteer, said reading served as a spiritual salvation for many.

“I asked Abdul Basit, ‘You are living on a cup of watery soup every day. Why aren’t you out looking for food instead of books?’ Abdul Basit answered, ‘Like the body, the soul also needs food,'” Thomson said.

“They had hope all through this, and they still have hope, because at the end, rebel forces in Daraya had to surrender, and most of these people had to go to Idlib,” he added.

The siege on Daraya ended in August 2016 after the rebels made a deal with Syria that allowed them to evacuate with their families. The agreement reportedly allowed about 700 fighters and 4,000 civilians to leave the suburb before regime forces entered.

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Left behind

Basit and his team of volunteers were among those who had to flee Daraya to northern Syria, leaving the library behind. Unable to take the books, the members tried to conceal the library by blocking its entrance with pieces of shattered concrete.

Despite their efforts, Syrian government forces were able to find the makeshift library. The fate of thousands of books remains unclear, according to Basit, who has been unable to return home due to the regime’s fierce control.

“I miss everything about that special place,” Thomson said in his book. “It wasn’t just a repository of books. It was another world, a world we shared together. And while outside was destruction and pain, inside was creation and hope. …  I felt inspired inside these walls.”

With Syria going into its ninth year of conflict, hundreds of thousands of people have been killed and injured, and millions have been displaced.

Over half of all Syrians have been displaced from their homes. Forty percent of them are living in northwest Syria and over 3.6 million are refugees in Turkey, according to a report published last April by the World Health Organization. (VOA)