Assad’s Amnesty for Aleppo Militants

Assad’s Amnesty for Aleppo MilitantsAssad’s Amnesty for Aleppo Militants

Militants holed up in Aleppo can leave with their families if they lay down their arms, President Bashar al-Assad said on Thursday, vowing to press on with the assault on Syria’s largest city and recapture full control of the country.

Fighters have accepted similar government amnesty offers in other besieged areas in recent months, notably in Daraya, a suburb of Damascus that was under siege for years until militants surrendered it in August, Reuters reported.

However, militants said they had no plan to evacuate Aleppo, the last major urban area they control and denounced the amnesty offer as a deception.

“It’s impossible for the militant groups to leave Aleppo because this would be a trick by the regime,” Zakaria Malahifji, a Turkey-based official for the Fastaqim group which is present in Aleppo, told Reuters. “Aleppo is not like other areas; it’s not possible for them to surrender.”

The army announced a reduction in shelling and airstrikes on Wednesday to allow people to leave. It backed that up with an ultimatum: “All those who do not take advantage of the provided opportunity to lay down their arms or to leave will face their inevitable fate.”

The government also sent text messages to the mobile phones of some of those people trapped in the besieged sector, telling them to repudiate fighters in their midst. More than 250,000 people are believed to be trapped inside militant-held eastern Aleppo, facing dire shortages of food and medicine.

Speaking to Danish television, Assad said he would “continue the fight with the militants until they leave Aleppo. They have to. There’s no other option.” He said that he wanted militants to accept a deal to leave the city along with their families and travel to other militant-held areas, as in Daraya. Neither Assad nor his generals gave a timeline for militants to accept their offer.

A US official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that the relentless Russian and Syrian bombardments could result in the fall of militant-held eastern Aleppo within “weeks if not days”.

The war has already killed hundreds of thousands, made half of Syrians homeless, dragged in global and regional powers and left swathes of the country in the hands of the self0styled Islamic State terrorist group that has carried out attacks around the globe.

The United States and Russia are both fighting against IS but are on opposite sides in the wider civil war, with Moscow fighting to protect Assad and Washington supporting terrorists against him.

Residents of eastern Aleppo said the aerial bombardment was significantly lighter overnight and on Thursday after the government’s statement, but they said heavy fighting continued on the frontlines and people were afraid.

The army and its allies seized half of the Bustan al-Basha quarter of Aleppo, north of the Old City on Thursday, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a war monitor, reported.

Meanwhile, militants continued the shelling of residential areas of government-held western Aleppo, where dozens of people have also been killed since the end of a ceasefire two weeks ago. The observatory said 10 people were killed and 52 wounded in government-held areas of Aleppo city by militants on Thursday. The government-held western districts of the city are still home to more than 1.5 million civilians.

Russian President Vladimir Putin will visit Paris on Oct. 19 to discuss Syria with his French counterpart Francois Hollande, the only diplomatic track still active over efforts to bring peace to the country.

Add new comment

Read our comment policy before posting your viewpoints