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Syria rebels call for Aleppo truce, civilian evacuation

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A picture taken on December 5, 2016 shows destroyed buildings in Aleppo's eastern al-Shaar neighbourhood as Syrian pro-government troops advance towards the area through Karm al-Jabal district during their offensive to retake Syria's second city. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the advances of the Syrian and allied forces left the large Shaar neighbourhood encircled by government forces and in danger of falling from rebel control. With the capture of Shaar, the army would hold 70 percent of east Aleppo, four years after rebels first seized it. / AFP PHOTO / GEORGE OURFALIAN /

A picture taken on December 5, 2016 shows destroyed buildings in Aleppo’s eastern al-Shaar neighbourhood as Syrian pro-government troops advance towards the area through Karm al-Jabal district during their offensive to retake Syria’s second city. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the advances of the Syrian and allied forces left the large Shaar neighbourhood encircled by government forces and in danger of falling from rebel control. With the capture of Shaar, the army would hold 70 percent of east Aleppo, four years after rebels first seized it. / AFP PHOTO / GEORGE OURFALIAN /

Syrian rebels in Aleppo city called Wednesday for an immediate five-day truce and the evacuation of civilians to other opposition-held territory in the northern province, a statement said.

The initiative, which comes after government forces seized three-quarters of the former rebel bastion in east Aleppo, was approved by all factions in the city, a representative from one group told AFP.

It calls for an “immediate five-day humanitarian ceasefire” as well as the UN-supervised evacuation of people requiring urgent medical care, who it says number around 500 people.

And it calls for “the evacuation of civilians who wish to leave besieged east Aleppo to the northern Aleppo province countryside,” where rebels still hold pockets of territory.

It rules out the evacuation of civilians to neighbouring Idlib province, where many civilians and surrendering rebels have taken refuge after leaving territory recaptured by the government elsewhere in the country.

“Idlib province is no longer a safe area because of Russian and regime bombardment,” it said.

The initiative makes no mention of the fate of the rebels remaining in the city, who have said previously they will not evacuate.

Instead, it calls for “negotiations on the future of the city” to begin after the “easing of the humanitarian situation in east Aleppo”.

Yasser al-Youssef of the Nureddin al-Zinki rebel group confirmed that the statement had been approved by all factions in east Aleppo, including Fateh al-Sham, the former Al-Qaeda affiliate previously known as Al-Nusra Front.

At least 80,000 people have already fled eastern neighbourhoods for territory controlled by the government or Kurds elsewhere in the city, according to a monitor.

More have fled south, to remaining rebel-held areas in the city.

East Aleppo fell to rebels in 2012 and has been under government siege since mid-July, with international aid now exhausted and food supplies limited.

More than 250,000 civilians were estimated to be in east Aleppo before the latest government offensive began in mid-November.

Figures for the number of rebels in the east before the offensive began range between around 8,000 to 15,000.


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