Rebels in Aleppo tell US they won’t leave the city
AFP photoRebels in Aleppo have told the United States they will not leave their besieged enclave in the city after Moscow called for talks with Washington over their withdrawal, signaling they will fight on even as their top commander was wounded.
A Syrian military source said the army aimed to take full control of Aleppo within weeks, after seizing swathes of the city’s rebel-held east in an advance poised to deal a major blow to the rebellion against President Bashar al-Assad.
With more than 30,000 people uprooted by the latest fighting, residents who fled eastern Aleppo for government-held areas early in the war began returning to the Hanano district recently captured from the rebels to inspect their homes.
Under relentless attack, the rebels may have no choice but to negotiate a withdrawal from their shrinking, besieged enclave in eastern Aleppo, where tens of thousands of civilians are thought to be sheltering.
The Western and regional states that have backed the rebellion appear unwilling or unable to do anything to prevent a major defeat for the opposition fighting to topple Assad.
Restoring full control over Aleppo would mark the biggest triumph yet for Assad in a war that spiraled from protests against his rule in 2011. The campaign waged by the Syrian army and its allies in Aleppo is one of the most ferocious of the war, with hundreds reported killed in recent weeks alone.
Russia, whose air force has helped the government close in on eastern Aleppo this year, said on Saturday it was ready for talks with the United States over a full withdrawal of rebels from Aleppo. Speaking to Reuters from Turkey, senior rebel official Zakaria Malahifji said groups fighting in Aleppo told U.S. officials on Dec. 3 they would not leave the city.
The U.S. officials had asked the rebels “do you want to leave, [or] do you want to be steadfast”, Malahifji said.
“Our response to the Americans was as follows: ‘We cannot leave our city, our homes, to the mercenary militias that the regime has mobilised in Aleppo’,” said Malahifji, the head of the political office of an Aleppo rebel group. “They listened to the response and did not comment,” he said, adding the rebel groups had reiterated calls for humanitarian corridors to be opened for the delivery of food and medicine into eastern Aleppo and the evacuation of the wounded.
The United States has yet to comment on the proposal made by Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Dec. 3 for talks on the withdrawal of all rebel fighters “without exclusion” from Aleppo.