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Syrian Rebels Offer Temporary Truce after Withdrawal from East Aleppo

  • VOA News

Civil defense members look for survivors under rubble of damaged buildings after airstrikes on the northern neighborhood of Idlib city, Syria, Dec. 5, 2016.

Syrian rebels in the besieged city of Aleppo are calling for an immediate five-day cease-fire to ensure the humanitarian evacuation of civilians from the eastern part of the city.

The rebels made the proposal Wednesday morning, just hours after Syria's Russian-backed army gained control of at least three-quarters of Aleppo's Old City, which had been under rebel control since 2012.

The rebel factions are proposing that around 500 people needing urgent medical care be evacuated under the supervision of the United Nations. They are also proposing that other civilians who wish to leave be allowed to travel to rural northern Aleppo, where there is no government presence, instead of neighboring Idlib province, which is besieged by Russian airstrikes.

The rebels say once the humanitarian situation has been alleviated, they will discuss the future of Aleppo.

There has been no response from Damascus about the rebels' offer.

The fall of Aleppo's Old City caps a major offensive launched by the army late last month to drive the rebels out of eastern Aleppo and marks a major victory for the government of President Bashar al-Assad in the now five-year-old conflict.

Parts of the historic Old City neighborhood, which was declared a UNESCO Heritage site 30 years ago, were devastated in the takeover, and witnesses say swaths of the historic sector are now virtually unrecognizable.

This photo provided by the Shafak Charity Organization, which has been authenticated based on its contents and other AP reporting, shows shows the badly damaged exterior of a medical facility dedicated to women after it was hit by four airstrikes that also killed two civilians in the northern Idlib province, Syria, Nov. 25, 2016.
This photo provided by the Shafak Charity Organization, which has been authenticated based on its contents and other AP reporting, shows shows the badly damaged exterior of a medical facility dedicated to women after it was hit by four airstrikes that also killed two civilians in the northern Idlib province, Syria, Nov. 25, 2016.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which monitors and reports on Syria's civil war, says 369 civilians have been killed in the offensive on east Aleppo, including 45 children. Another 92 civilians -- including 34 children -- were killed by rebel shelling on government-held west Aleppo,

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is scheduled to hold talks with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in Hamburg, Germany later Wednesday. The two diplomats have held numerous talks in hopes of reaching a diplomatic solution to the civil war.

U.N. special envoy Stefan de Mistura said last week he expected eastern Aleppo to fall to government forces by the end of December, without a negotiated settlement to end the four-year rebel occupation.

Tens of thousands of civilians are thought to be trapped in eastern Aleppo despite a huge surge of refugees fleeing in the past two weeks for the relative safety of government-controlled western districts.

Monitors last week estimated that 18,000 civilians in the east had moved into western neighborhoods and more than 9,000 others into a Kurdish-controlled district.

In a separate development, Syria's state-run SANA news agency says a military airport located west of the capital of Damascus was hit Wednesday morning by several Israeli surface-to-surface missiles. It was the second such airstrike carried out by Israeli forces on positions outside of Damascus in a week.

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