Russian Troops Return to Aleppo Countryside after Sudden Withdrawal

Russian military convoy in Aleppo countryside, north Syria (Asharq Al-Awsat)
Russian military convoy in Aleppo countryside, north Syria (Asharq Al-Awsat)
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Russian Troops Return to Aleppo Countryside after Sudden Withdrawal

Russian military convoy in Aleppo countryside, north Syria (Asharq Al-Awsat)
Russian military convoy in Aleppo countryside, north Syria (Asharq Al-Awsat)

Russian forces returned to Tal Rifaat and Kashtaar bases, under the control of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), after a sudden withdrawal on Tuesday.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) said that a military convoy of pro-Iranian militias headed near Tal Rifaat, carrying heavy and medium weapons and military and logistical equipment, as well as fighters and armored vehicles.

It entered the area to secure the towns mainly inhabited by Shiites and protect them from any possible military operation by the Turkish forces and the National Army supported by Ankara.

Earlier, Russian forces withdrew from Kashtaar and Tel Rifaat bases in the northern countryside of Aleppo, with four columns of armored and military vehicles, and more than 100 members of the Russian forces.

Activists released videos showing two Russian troop convoys with one leaving Tal Rifaat, and another near Fafeen, withdrawing towards Aleppo.

Local sources suggested the Russian forces withdrew because of “disagreements” with the SDF on providing the regime with fuel, grain, and some goods.

Russia also asked SDF to open three crossings and oversee them, but it refused the proposal, according to Hikmat Khalil, deputy head of the Executive Body of the Syrian Democratic Council (SDC).

Other sources suggest the sudden withdrawal precedes a total evacuation from the region, which allows the Turkish forces and its affiliated forces to launch a military operation to control Tal Rifaat and the areas north of Aleppo.

The operation also aims to remove SDF, especially that the contact areas with the National Army are witnessing intermittent clashes and infiltration attempts.

The SDF is trying to carry out military operations and lay landmines in areas under the control of the National Army near Azaz, in north Aleppo.

The town of Tal Rifaat and more than 30 nearby villages are under the control of the Kurdish fighters.

It is a major point that connects Gaziantep in Turkey with Aleppo through Bab al-Salama crossing in Azaz, controlled by Turkish-backed opposition factions.

The Russian Reconciliation Center in Syria indicated in a statement on April 9 that five civilians were killed, and six others injured in artillery shelling by the pro-Turkish factions in Tal Rifaat, under the control of the SDF coalition, which hosts a Russian base and regime positions.



Sudan's RSF Agrees with UN on Steps to Ease Aid Delivery

Sudanese farmers plow a field on the outskirts of Sudan's eastern city of Gedaref on July 18, 2024. (Photo by AFP)
Sudanese farmers plow a field on the outskirts of Sudan's eastern city of Gedaref on July 18, 2024. (Photo by AFP)
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Sudan's RSF Agrees with UN on Steps to Ease Aid Delivery

Sudanese farmers plow a field on the outskirts of Sudan's eastern city of Gedaref on July 18, 2024. (Photo by AFP)
Sudanese farmers plow a field on the outskirts of Sudan's eastern city of Gedaref on July 18, 2024. (Photo by AFP)

Sudan's Rapid Support Forces agreed with the United Nations on some steps to ease aid delivery in areas under its control, a member of the RSF told Reuters on Thursday.

The Sudanese army has not reached any understandings on aid delivers with the RSF, he added. It is unclear if these steps could be implemented without the army's participation.

Meanwhile, a key supply route into Sudan's Darfur region, deemed at risk of famine by a global monitor, has been cut off due to heavy rains, a World Food Program official told Reuters on Thursday.
The UN agency has described Sudan as the world's biggest hunger crisis, with the western Darfur region most at risk as Sudan's 15-month civil war that has displaced millions and sparked ethnic violence grinds on.
WFP's Country Director Eddie Rowe said thousands of tons of aid are stranded at the Tina crossing on the Chad border, prompting the body to reopen talks with the army-aligned government to open an alternative, all-weather crossing further south called Adre.
"You have these huge rivers. As I speak now, our convoy, which is supposed to move over 2000 metric tons is stranded," he told Reuters from Port Sudan. Asked on the status of the talks that resumed this week, he said: "It's 50/50.”
WFP is now seeking clearances to move a large 70-truck convoy via a little-used, over 1000 kilometer route from Port Sudan to Darfur which Rowe said will involve crossing the battle lines of both the Sudan Armed Forces, the Rapid Support Forces and various militias.
He added that this mostly desert route has worked in the past but outside of the rainy season and that the last journey took weeks and was "fraught with a lot of challenges.”
In a separate interview, Mona Rishmawi, a member of the UN Fact-Finding Mission on Sudan, told Reuters that she had met Darfur refugees in Chad who told her stories of escaping with virtually no water and eating grass along the route. "There's no doubt that people are starving," she said.