‘No Islamic State group in Aleppo, so who is Russia bombing? Eyewitness asks

Residents look for survivors from what residents  said was due to shelling by Russian warplanes  in Aleppo, where ISIS does not exist
Residents look for survivors from what residents said was due to shelling by Russian warplanes in Aleppo, where ISIS does not exist

By Rami Jarah
Ever since Russia began its bombing campaign in Syria in September, it has claimed to be targetting the Islamic State (IS) organisation. However, using geolocation techniques, many analysts quickly realised that Russian jets overwhelmingly target rebel-held territory, and only rarely IS group positions. Shocked by the lack of reaction from the international community, a Syrian exile decided to return to his war-torn country to film the bombings.

When the conflict in Syria broke out in 2011, Rami Jarah, a young man from Damascus, became one of them most prominent citizen journalists keeping foreign media abreast of the developments, thanks to his perfect English. At the time, he went by the pseudonym “Alexander Page”. He fled the country at the end of 2011, first moving to Egypt, then Turkey. But he never stopped reporting on Syria: he founded a citizen media project, ANA Press, with a group of Syrian friends, and has taken regular trips back into his country to report on the situation.

He recently arrived in the rebel-held city of Aleppo in Syria, where he now plans to stay indefinitely. He has filmed several videos showing the aftermath of air raids, in which medics scramble to save victims from the rubble. He also filmed a video in which he asks various Aleppo residents whether the IS group is present in their city. They all answer an unequivocal “no”.

Because of the lack of foreign journalists in Syria at the moment, the international public is not receiving verified information about what’s going on. There’s a vacuum in which propaganda is allowed to thrive. That’s why I felt I had to come back.

I have seen no signs of any fundamentalist or extremist factions in Aleppo – and of course, that includes the IS group. If IS group fighters were here, I certainly wouldn’t be able to go around asking people in the streets whether or not they like IS jihadists. I wouldn’t be alive! Yes, IS group fighters are present in the area to the northeast of Aleppo, and, like the regime, have repeatedly tried to cut off roads to the city. But to say that IS extremists are present inside Aleppo is simply propaganda.

It’s also important to note that neither Russian nor Syrian airstrikes have targeted IS group positions to the northeast of the city. It’s almost as if a strong presence of IS jihadists gives them a good excuse to continue their airstrikes… Locals believe that the Syrian regime wants to quash the rebels first and foremost, before dealing with the IS group.

The fighter jets carry about 10 to 15 air strikes every day. The bombs are landing in markets, in very populated areas, sometimes killing up to 50 people in one airstrike. Each time I’ve gone to the site of an attack, I ask myself whether there are any particular Free Syrian Army [rebel] targets there, but the answer is always no. It seems to be totally random.

People here can quickly tell the difference between a Syrian plane and a Russian one, not just due to the sounds of the missiles but due to the impact. The impact of a Russian airstrike is much larger… The civil defence medics are overwhelmed. I’ve seen cases where a person is trapped under the rubble, but the teams are unable to get them out. It’s hard to watch.

The morale of the people of Aleppo is very low at the moment. They feel vulnerable, since they have three enemies: the IS group, Assad’s regime, and now Russia. That the international community allows Russia to continue these air strikes on civilians – while lying about their reasons for them – has left Aleppo residents feeling that freedom, democracy and human rights are just phrases. They’ll seldom say it on camera, but off-camera, people will often tell you that they don’t believe in these principles anymore.

The investigative journalism organisation Bellingcat has analysed every single video released by Russia’s defence ministry showing their air strikes in Syria. According to their report, in many cases, the actual targets were not those reported by the ministry, and in most cases, the IS group was not known to be present in the actually targeted area



5 responses to “‘No Islamic State group in Aleppo, so who is Russia bombing? Eyewitness asks”

  1. DaveTheRave Avatar

    I don’t understand what background research the reporter here undertook in assessing the Russian position.

    I’ve actually seen this in a few pieces of reportage recently where Russian assaults on non IS targets are seen to be somehow mystifying and disingenuous.

    OK Rami just for you I’ll make it clearer. Baddie Wahabbi Jihadis of ALL affiliations are absolutely despised by the Russians. They enjoy slaughtering them en masse, Civilian collateral damage means very little to them. Fighting and winning is what Russians are very good at. There are no good guys in this war, there are only bad guys and worse guys.

    The Russians will broker a peace deal eventually but Islamist ambitions will not be pandered to.

    1. 5thDrawer Avatar

      Unfortunately, probably true. And the average Russian worries about the next meal.
      And the UN now fails miserably to be what it was intended to be.
      And yes, the propaganda and disinformation is heavy everywhere.

    2. johngilbert Avatar

      The confusion lies in that the very same countries that are supporting the Syrian rebels still have relations with the Russians such as economic and military ones. So far, none have boycotted anything Russian. Instead, Russia is now trying to boycott Turkey just for standing up once to Russia recently. None of the opposition’s allies has so far directly confronted Russia, Iran, Hezbollah, Assad in Syria. With regards to arming the rebels, the rebels have not really been fully armed by the arms that they really need from their allies.

    3. MekensehParty Avatar

      What background research do you want more than being on the ground? The guy went to Aleppo and it’s a fact that there is no Isis presence inside the city but rather around it, far from where the Russian strikes are happening. It is not unknown that Russia is doing very little to hurt Isis, even less to eradicate it as claimed in Moscow with great fanfare. Russia is simply there to try and stop the crumbling of Assad and protect and fortify the little land he still controls. The rest, Russian ethics or invulnerability is just empty words.

      1. Lmfao
        When it suits you, a Syrian is honest but when that same Syrian says something negative about the good Ol honest caring charitable decent understanding blah blah blah USA, then he’s a terrorist or your mom’s cousin.
        Tilhas teez jahash

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