Syrian regime issues ultimatum to East Aleppo residents
The Syrian military called on Thursday for civilians in besieged rebel-held east Aleppo to evacuate the area while also calling for rebels to put down their arms.
The call marks the beginning of a three-day “pause” in hostilities announced by Russia that Moscow claims is intended to allow civilians and opposition fighters safe passage out of east Aleppo.
East Aleppo has faced a tight regime-imposed siege since July, and, since a US-Russian brokered truce collapsed in mid-September, has been subject to a devastating aerial campaign carried out by Syrian and Russian warplanes that has left hundreds dead.
The Lebanese, pro-regime TV station Al-Mayadeen on Thursday morning broadcast from one of the passages that Moscow says will serve as humanitarian corridors out of east Aleppo.
The footage relayed military messages transmitted on loudspeakers calling on both civilians and rebels to leave east Aleppo stating: "The battle for returning Aleppo to the nation's fold is in its last phases. There is no point in continuing the fight."
In the last couple of days, ahead of the proposed humanitarian “pause”, Russian and Syrian warplanes have stopped their deadly sorties over the city. However, on Thursday morning AFP reported that clashes had erupted in one area designated as a humanitarian corridor.
Syria’s state news agency SANA, various Russian media outlets, and pro-opposition activists blamed the clashes on the opposition, claiming that rebel groups had fired on the passages to prevent residents from leaving the area.
Russia’s proposed temporary ceasefire for Aleppo has been widely criticised by international actors, including the United States and the UK, as well as humanitarian groups, who argue that it principally serves Moscow and Damascus’ military objectives. In their eyes it offers residents and rebels in east Aleppo a clear ultimatum: leave or stay and face further bombardment.
Earlier this week rebel groups dismissed the plan as a call for their “surrender” raising concerns that given ongoing failures to reach a diplomatic solution to end bloodshed, the ceasefire will merely serve as a temporary lull in hostilities in the city.