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Syria Government Refuses Aleppo Cease-Fire If Rebels Stay

Syrian army soldiers fire their weapons during a battle with rebel fighters at the Ramouseh front line, east of Aleppo, Dec. 5, 2016.

The Syrian government says it will reject any cease fire agreement that allows rebels to stay in eastern Syria, arguing it would allow the rebels to “regroup and repeat their crimes.”

The Syrian Foreign Ministry, in a statement carried by state media, called the rebels terrorists, in reference to the 81 civilians killed by rebel shelling of government-held districts during the past three weeks, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

In the statement, Syria vowed to not leave citizens of eastern Aleppo in what it called "the terrorists’ captivity".

The Syrian statement comes just one day after Russia and China vetoed a U.N. Security Council vote to impose a seven-day cease fire in Aleppo to allow humanitarian aid to reach the city and as its amry inches further into rebel-held territory.

The Syrian army took control of five new districts in eastern Aleppo on Tuesday, putting the government in control of about 70 percent of the city, according to the Observatory.

"The regime is cornering the rebels even further," Observatory head Rami Abdel Rahman told AFP.

Russia’s U.N. ambassador, Vitaly Churkin, echoed the statement out of Damascus in explaining his veto of the cease fire plan, saying it would only “worsen the suffering of civilians.”

“These kinds of pauses have been used by fighters to reinforce their ammo [ammunition] and to strengthen their positions,” he said.

Syria and its Russian ally have routinely described the fight against rebels in eastern Aleppo as a battle against terrorists, despite the sector's huge civilian population earlier described by witnesses as largely too fearful to flee.

A ball of fire rises following a Syrian government airstrike that hit rebel positions in the eastern neighborhoods of Aleppo, Dec. 5, 2016.
A ball of fire rises following a Syrian government airstrike that hit rebel positions in the eastern neighborhoods of Aleppo, Dec. 5, 2016.

Speaking in Moscow, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said the only option for rebels is to leave the city.

“Those who refuse to leave nicely will be destroyed,” he said. “There is no other way.”

Syria's Russian-backed military has been intensifying its offensive against the rebel-held enclave in Aleppo since mid-November. It has since retaken more than half of the rebel-held areas. About 250,000 civilians are believed trapped in the eastern part of the city.

U.S. Deputy Ambassador Michele Sison said the Russian and Chinese action would only serve to deprive besieged civilians of medicine, food and other life-saving aid. “They have vetoed the lives of innocent Syrians, she said. “This action is a death sentence for innocent men, women and children.”

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