PHOTO: An Islamic State fighter inside captured Palmyra on Sunday
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UPDATE 2145 GMT: A message from “Lina Shamy”, a resident of east Aleppo, “To everyone who can hear me, we are here exposed to a genocide”:
— Lina shamy (@Linashamy) December 12, 2016
UPDATE 2115 GMT: Effectively confirming that Russia promote US-Russian discussions to buy time for military operations in eastern Aleppo, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has said that the talks are at a “dead end”.
Last weekend a US-Russian proposal was presented to the opposition for the withdrawal of rebels, families, and civilians; however, as pro-Assad forces renewed their advance, Moscow denied any agreement with Washington.
Lavrov said at a news conference in Belgrade:
From Dec. 3 when we met John Kerry in Rome they supported such a concept [of total rebel withdrawal and even gave us their approval on paper.
But after three days they revoked that agreement and returned to their old, dead-end position which comprises this: before the agreement on corridors there has to be a truce…As I understand, this would just mean the rebels would get a break.
The Foreign Minister also declared that the Islamic State’s capture of Palmyra may have been “orchestrated, coordinated” by the US-led coalition “to give a break to those bandits that are in eastern Aleppo”.
UPDATE 2020 GMT: The opposition is down to its last few districts in eastern Aleppo city, with the Syrian military saying victory will soon be declared.
Foreign forces and regime army and paramilitary units now control the Bustan al-Qasr area. Rebels are holding out in Sukkari, Mash’had, and Zebdia.
A humanitarian worker in Aleppo says celebratory gunfire is non-stop. Rebel pockets may be holding out, but for regime it's as good as over.
— Alison Meuse (@AliTahmizian) December 12, 2016
U guess it's goodbye..
Thanks all who stand for us and pay for us.
But it's almost over and they are just hours away of killing us
— Rami Zien (@Rami_Zien) December 12, 2016
UPDATE 2000 GMT: Residents in the al-Firdous district have told Al Jazeera that pro-Assad forces summarily executed as many as 70 people over alleged connections to rebels.
Pro-opposition activists and outlets on social media are echoing the claim, citing mass killings in Kalaseh and Bustan al-Qasr.
One report, from a normally reliable activist, said all staff of one hospital have been executed:
— Putintin (@putintintin1) December 12, 2016
However, a doctor at the hospital later said that all staff were alive: “One Gynecologist went to regime area. We’ve been under shelling [so] people thought we died.”
UPDATE 1710 GMT: Bilal Abdul Kareem of On the Ground News, who has been reporting from east Aleppo, sends a final message:
Perhaps my final message from E. Aleppo. Regime forces are closing in and bunker busters are raining down. pic.twitter.com/XgK0DSa08x
— Bilal Abdul Kareem (@BilalKareem) December 12, 2016
The unbearable horror of Aleppo. Thousands of civilians remain within a few rebel-held districts, bombed relentlessly and indiscriminately. pic.twitter.com/Fig0hFCcgU
— Tobias Schneider (@tobiaschneider) December 12, 2016
UPDATE 1445 GMT: On Sunday, Fateham al-Abed — the east Aleppo teacher whose tweets have vividly described life under siege, bombardment, and ground assault — spoke with CNN:
I am afraid to lose one of my kids if I flee with all the people because they think I work against the regime.
— CNN (@CNN) December 12, 2016
Today al-Abed, whose 7-year-daughter Bana has become an iconic face of the Aleppo story — says:
Final message – people are dying since last night. I am very surprised I am tweeting right now & still alive. – Fatemah #Aleppo
— Bana Alabed (@AlabedBana) December 12, 2016
Later, the account posted in Bana’s name:
My dad is injured now. I am crying.-Bana #Aleppo
— Bana Alabed (@AlabedBana) December 12, 2016
UPDATE 1245 GMT: France has reacted to Russia’s withdrawal of a US-Russian proposal for evacuation of eastern Aleppo city, accusing Moscow of “constant lies”.
French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault told reporters:
There is Russian doublespeak…a form of constant lies. On the one hand they say let’s negotiate, and we negotiate to reach a ceasefire.
On the other, they continue the war, a total war, it’s a desire to save the Assad regime and to make Aleppo fall.
Ayrault continued by challenging Russia’s pretext for its military operations: “The Russians who pretend to fight against terrorism are in fact focusing on Aleppo and have given space to Daesh [the Islamic State], which is in the process of taking back Palmyra, which is very symbolic.”
UPDATE 0715 GMT: The US-Russian proposal for a rebel-civilian departure from opposition-held areas of Aleppo appears to have been overtaken by important gains by pro-Assad forces.
The Syrian military is declaring control of the Sheikh Saeed district, which foreign allies and regime troops have been trying to take for weeks. The military also says it has taken Firdous and Karm al-Da’da.
A resident of East Aleppo tweets:
It is the doomsday inside Aleppo. Bombs bombs are over the head of civilians. people are running running but don't know where to go.
— @Mr.Alhamdo (@Mr_Alhamdo) December 12, 2016
this is a call and might be the last call.
Save Aleppo people. Save my daughter and other children. #StandWithAleppo
— @Mr.Alhamdo (@Mr_Alhamdo) December 12, 2016
Claimed photo of Palestinian militiamen from Liwa al-Quds in Sheikh Sa’eed:
Russia has now stepped back from the US-Russian document, under consideration by opposition officials and seen by Reuters, denying that it reached any agreement with Washington.
Bombing of the remaining opposition districts today:
— Riam Dalati (@Dalatrm) December 12, 2016
Pro-Assad reporter Sohayb Masri and regime soldiers mock a captured rebel:
— M Green (@MmaGreen) December 12, 2016
Hossein Mortada, a reporter for Iran’s al-Alam, laughs as he drives one of the green buses deployed to take away civilians leaving east Aleppo:
— hosein mortada (@HoseinMortada) December 9, 2016
ORIGINAL ENTRY: Reversing more than a year of setbacks in Syria, the Islamic State has recaptured the historic city of Palmyra from the Assad regime.
Meanwhile, in besieged and bombarded Aleppo city, the opposition is considering a US-Russian proposal for the removal of rebels and civilians from its areas.
In only the third day of a lightning offensive, ISIS completed the takeover of Palmyra, famed for its Roman ruins, on Sunday. The group first captured the city in May 2015, but was pushed out by pro-Assad forces in March 2016. The loss came amid a series of defeats and retreats by the Islamic State across northern Syria, initially at the hands of a Kurdish-led push from the northeast and from August by a Turkish-rebel offensive moving south from the Syrian-Turkish border.
Taking advantage of the concentration of the Syrian military and its foreign allies on Aleppo, the Islamic State launched its attacks on Friday, quickly surrounding Palmyra from three sides. It entered the city on Saturday, prompting many defenders to flee, but withdrew briefly after an intense Russian and regime aerial assault.
Photographs on Sunday confirmed the ISIS success, with little apparent resistance from the remaining pro-Assad army and paramilitary units.
The Islamic State pressed its advance, taking the al-Dawa area to the west of the city. By Sunday night, it was reportedly on the outskirts of the T4 military airbase, one of the most important for the Assad regime and a staging point for Russian aerial operations.
ISIS fighters in the center of Palmyra:
— Chris Tomson (@TheDaneChris) December 11, 2016
ISIS fighters with captured and destroyed armors:
— Jacm (@JACM212) December 12, 2016
Equipment left to ISIS by regime forces, including 5 T-55 tanks, 3 T-72 tanks, and four other armored vehicles:
— Qalaat Al Mudiq (@QalaatAlMudiq) December 11, 2016
Opposition Considers Departure from Aleppo
The Assad regime and its foreign allies could be on the verge of reunited Aleppo, Syria’s largest city, for the first time since July 2012.
The opposition, which has lost at least 75% of its territory in eastern Aleppo, since November 26, is considered a US-Russian proposal for rebel, their families, and other civilians to leave.
In a small compromise, Russia is now permitting rebels to withdraw to areas other than opposition-held Idlib Province. Some could move to northern Aleppo Province, linking up with the Turkish-rebel offensive which is closing on the Islamic State’s last major position, the town of al-Bab to the northeast of Aleppo city.
“They sent us a letter, they are saying to safeguard the civilians … you can leave in an honorable way to any place you choose and the Russians will pledge publicly that nobody will be harmed or stopped,” said an opposition official. “We have yet to give a response.”
A second official said a plan “is being proposed to the factions, the fundamental thing in it is the departure of the all the fighters in an honorable way”.
Russia maintained a cautious position, asserting that it had not reached any agreement with the US but was working to “create the necessary conditions” for the removal of people.
Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said, “The issue of withdrawing militants is the subject of separate agreements. This agreement has not yet been reached, largely because the United States insists on unacceptable terms.”
He said talks between Russian and US specialists are continuing in Geneva,
Moscow’s stance may be trying to buy more time for a military conquest of the remaining opposition districts. On Monday morning, the Syrian military declared that it had finally taken the Sheikh Saeed district, after weeks of attacks, on the southern edge of the opposition pocket.
Claim: 85 Killed in Pro-Assad “Toxic Gas” Attack on Village in Eastern Hama
The pro-opposition Local Coordination Committees is reporting the killing of at least 85 people by a pro-Assad “toxic gas” attack on a village in eastern Hama Province.
The LCC said pro-Assad forces fired shells with sarin on Uqayribat. Other activists said mustard agent was used.