Syrian regime urges rebels to quit East Aleppo

Syrian regime urges rebels to quit East Aleppo
Leaflets have been dropped on East Aleppo urging rebel fighters to put down their weapons and surrender the area to the regime.
3 min read
22 November, 2016
The Syrian regime is calling on rebels to surrender the city [Getty]

The Syrian regime has demanded rebels pull out of East Aleppo and and civilians leave the area, as Damascus continued with an offensive to recapture the city's opposition-held sector.

The army, which has besieged the east for months, also demanded that rebels distribute food to civilians, while calling on residents to cooperate with its advancing troops.

The military dropped leaflets with a picture of a green coach like those used in the past to transport civilians and rebels from areas retaken by the government.

"To those involved in carrying weapons, we stretch out our hand to you. Reserve your place before it is too late," the leaflets read.

The picture showed the coach on a road marked "the path of salvation".

In a separate statement carried by state media, the army accused rebels of using the 250,000 civilians still in the east as "human shields" and demanded they be allowed to leave.

"Permit those citizens who want to do so to leave, stop using them as hostages and human shields, clear the mines from the crossings identified by the state," the army said.

Damascus and its ally Russia claimed to have opened several crossings to civilians and surrendering rebels to cross from East Aleppo, but they accuse opposition fighters of preventing departures.

Activists says residents are too terrified to enter regime territory fearing being picked up by intelligence and jailed.

A regime statement urged "brother citizens in East Aleppo to cooperate with the Syrian Arab Army", while stressing its "firm commitment to their security and safety".

The army accuses rebels of hoarding food in the east, where aid rations have run out after nearly four months of regime siege, and said Tuesday that fighters should distribute rations.

"We call on the gunmen in East Aleppo to open their warehouses and distribute food rations to those in need," the army said.

Regime media claims that protests have taken place outside rebel offices demanding food.

On Monday, UN humanitarian chief Stephen O'Brien condemned the use of sieges in Syria, saying nearly one million people across the country were under blockades, most imposed by the regime.

"Civilians are being isolated, starved, bombed, denied medical attention and humanitarian assistance in order to force them to submit or flee," he told the UN Security Council.

As the army advances in East Aleppo, its leadership announced the formation of a new voluntary battalion tasked with "eradicating terrorism, fighting alongside the rest of our heroic army and allied factions".

There were no details on who would man the battalion or when and where it would fight.

Syria's army has relied heavily in the fight against rebels on local pro-government militias as well as Lebanon's Shia militant group Hizbollah and forces from Iran and Russia.