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U.N.'s Truce Plan For Aleppo Draws Skepticism


This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Scott Simon. The city of Aleppo has often been the bloodiest battleground of Syria's brutal Civil War, the Assad regime on one side, rebels on another and hundreds of thousands of civilians between - struggling, suffering and often dying. The Syrian army has recently gained ground against the rebels as the threat to the Islamic State, or ISIS, grows. A mediator from the United Nations this week called for freeze zones in an attempt to try to stem the violence in Aleppo.

Zaina Erhaim is a journalist who lives in Aleppo. She's a project coordinator for the Syrian Institute for War and Peace Reporting, and she joins us over Skype. Ms. Erhaim, thank you very much for being with us.

ZAINA ERHAIM: You're welcome. Hi.

SIMON: Has anyone agreed to these freeze zones? Do they have any hope?

ERHAIM: I don't believe so. First, we don't believe in the regime's words or promises. It's been giving these promises for three years now, and obviously it's not keeping it. You're talking about truce or, like, a quiet zones while your helicopters are still bombing civilians with barrel bombs, so this is not logical. People in Aleppo mainly don't trust the regime, and they can't see this coming sadly.

SIMON: Can you help us understand what life is like day-to-day in Aleppo?

ERHAIM: Well, it's not that quiet. Usually, we have two to three air force attacks, mainly with barrel bombs. Civil life is still going on in an awkward way, and many people are still shopping. We still have some peddlers who sell vegetables, fruits. Prices of gas rapidly raise lately. The regime took over one of the roads, which connects Aleppo to its suburb, so now we only have only one road that connects us with the other world. And that road is exposed to the regime and mainly it's bombed, either with jets or targeted with thermal rockets. So the only road connects us to the world is not safe. That made lots of things much more harder to be done. And the goods are much more expansive now because they have to pass that road. So as it's seen from our side, the regime is winning lands and IS has taken some of the Northern suburb parts. And on (unintelligible) road, I passed it last month, and then suddenly it was taken by them. And we had to go around to reach Turkey or the northern suburb, so it seems like both the regime and IS are winning, and the only ones losing are civilians.

SIMON: Here in the United States this week, President Obama asked his national security team to review their Syria strategy. What does it look like to you? Did the administration do the right thing by trying to deal with ISIS in Iraq first?

ERHAIM: I don't know about Iraq, but in Syria, they've done exactly the opposite thing that they should've been doing. And I know many people who joined IS after the strikes. The United States are forgetting all the Sunnis in the area. They fuel terrorism. And I met a defector from IS. He was still in Syria trying to reach Turkey. And he told me how many, as him, joined IS after the strikes happened because they thought this is the only way to defend - not only did the Islamic State, but the Muslims and the Sunnis because now they're feeling the war is not only targeting IS, but all the Muslim Sunnis. Had they'd been bombing the regime and the Shia militias fighting on its side, that could have changed things. But now they're targeting only us. Last week, they killed four children and they're targeting their prisons. And in their prisons, there are lots of civilians who are being abducted by them. So actually, civilians are always those who are paying the price.

SIMON: Zaina Erhaim, who's project coordinator for the Syrian Institute for War and Peace Reporting in Aleppo. Thanks very much for being with us.

ERHAIM: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.