PHOTO: President Assad — “Crying, wailing, and begging for a truce are enemy’s only political discourse now”
UPDATE 1800 GMT: Russian Foreign Sergei Lavrov has announced an effective ceasefire in eastern Aleppo city.
Speaking in Hamburg, Germany, Lavrov said President Assad’s forces have suspended “active military activities” to enable the withdrawal of civilians from the city.
The Foreign Minister made his announcement after a meeting and follow-up phone call with US Secretary of State John Kerry. He said talk “between our [Russia-US] military experts and diplomats” should complete negotiations of American proposals presented last week.
The Russian Foreign Ministry said, “Based on the US side’s declared readiness to facilitate the withdrawal of militants from that city, the sides agreed to look into practical details of this process at the expert level in the nearest future.”
UPDATE 1545 GMT: The Conflict Intelligence Team, a specialist on the Russian military, says a
second Russian colonel was killed recently in Aleppo.
The Russian Defense Ministry acknowledged three deaths — two female medics and Colonel Ruslan Galitsky — from rebel shelling on a mobile base last weekend.
However, CIT says President Vladimir Putin honored four personnel who were killed. The fourth, Colonel Skvortsov, was a brigade commander in Spetsnaz, the Russian special forces.
High-ranking Spetsnaz commander among Russian servicemen killed and wounded in Aleppo recently who were awarded by Putin today pic.twitter.com/CyNKJE45kE
— CIT (en) (@CITeam_en) December 8, 2016
Skvortsov in the 2016 Victory Day parade in Tambov in western Russia:
UPDATE 0845 GMT: The pro-opposition Local Coordination Committees documented the killing of 61 people in Aleppo on Wednesday. “Most of them” were slain in fighting with pro-Assad forces; however, there were also casualties from regime bombing of districts such as Mash’had, Sahet Baza, Salhin, Maadi, Kalaseh, and Ansari.
The deaths were among 97 documented across Syria, including 21 children and 17 women. Among the casualties were 20 in Raqqa Province, most from US-led coalition airstsrikes.
ORIGINAL ENTRY: As foreign forces and the Syrian army close on retaking opposition-held eastern Aleppo city, President Assad has rejected a ceasefire and insisted on total victory.
The opposition local council has proposed a five-day truce for evacuation of all civilians who wish to leave, and there are signs that Assad’s key ally Russia will consider this. However, the President rejected any possibility of a ceasefire in an interview with the pro-regime al-Watan newspaper, published on Thursday:
Other powers still insist on calling for a truce, particularly the Americans, because their proxies, the terrorists, are in a difficult position. That’s why crying, wailing, and begging for a truce constitute their only political discourse now, in addition, of course, to talking about humanitarian aspects.
Assad insisted that total victory in required over rebels and their backers, notably Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan:
Liberating Aleppo from the terrorists deals a blow to the whole foundation of the project [to capture] Damascus, Homs, and Aleppo. That way the terrorists and the countries supporting them are deprived of any real cards….
Because Turkey has thrown all its weight, and Erdogan laid all his bets on Aleppo, the failure of their battle in Aleppo means a total transformation of the course of the war throughout Syria, and consequently the collapse of the outside project, be it regional or Western.
Assad also rejected any pursuit of a political resolution in which he did not set the terms, saying that intermittent talks since 2012 were “not based on fighting terrorism; rather this process was only an instrument to enable terrorists to achieve what they could not achieve in the field.”
He declared, “We support dialogue between the Syrians when it is a Syrian-Syrian dialogue between Syrians who do not belong to foreign agendas and do not support terrorism.”
The President evaded the question of whether Syria had become a “Russian satellite” because of Moscow’s military intervention that propped up the regime and turned the course of hte conflict, instead pointing at the US: “The West thinks this way because it lives such a condition. You know that all Western states are now satellites of one master, America.”
Pro-Assad Forces Take 75% of Opposition Territory in Aleppo
Foreign forces — Iranian troops, Hezbollah fighters, Iraqi, Pakistani, and Afghan militia, and Russia support units — as well as Syrian military and paramilitary elements made further important gains in eastern Aleppo city on Wednesday.
The offensive reclaimed all of the Old City, long split between the regime and opposition, and several other neighborhoods. Rebels have now been pushed backed into about 25% of the opposition territory held before November 26.
Although an estimated 50,000 civilians had left for regime or Kurdish areas of Aleppo, more than 200,000 are believed to have been compressed into the remaining opposition neighborhoods.
“It’s been a tragedy here for a long time, but I’ve never seen this kind of pressure on the city – you can’t rest for even five minutes, the bombardment is constant,” a resident said on Wednesday. “Any movement in the streets and there is bombardment immediately.”
The resident, who declined to be identified, said people were desperate for food or water.
A Russian-regime siege was reimposed on eastern Aleppo in late August, and any aid attempts have been blocked, including the bombing of a UN convoy on September 19.
“The dead are everywhere,” Ibrahim al-Haj, a spokesman for Aleppo Civil Defense, said on Wednesday. “There are dozens of bodies lying on the streets, buried under the rubble and even more now behind enemy lines.”
He adds, “Simply put, we’ve lost track.”
Footage from the Old City on Wednesday:
The al-Sha’ar district:
— lyse doucet (@bbclysedoucet) December 7, 2016
Russia said last week that it was discussing an American proposal for the removal of all rebels from east Aleppo, and claimed that discussions were to continue in Geneva by Wednesday. However, amid a Russian veto of a UN resolution for a ceasefire, the US said the talks had not been scheduled.
However, US Secretary of State John Kerry met with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in Hamburg on Wednesday. State Department spokesman John Kirby said the two “discussed ongoing multilateral efforts to achieve a cessation of hostilities in Aleppo, as well as the delivery of humanitarian aid”.
Kerry told reporters after the meeting that he and Lavrov will “connect” on Thursday morning.
Islamic State Claims Deadly Attack on Regime Forces in Homs Province
The Islamic State is claiming a deadly attack on regime forces in eastern Homs Province.
The ISIS news service Amaq claimed more than 50 troops were killed as the Islamic State took a series of checkpoints in the Jazal Mountains, near the city of Palmyra.
A pro-Assad website insists, from “local media”, that the attack was repelled, with ISIS losing more than 60 fighters and eight armored vehicles.
Pro-Assad forces retook Palmyra, famed for its Roman ruins, from ISIS in March.