Assad Vows to Retake All of Syria, Says Nusra is Pindo ‘Card’ in War
Reuters, Oct 6 2016
Assad said his forces would recapture all of Syria, including Aleppo, in a television interview on Thursday but added he would prefer to do so using local deals and amnesties that would allow rebels to leave for other areas. According to the transcript of an interview with Denmark’s TV 2, he said there were no moderate rebels and that Pindostan was using Jabhat al-Nusra as “a card” in Syria’s war. The Syrian government has already agreed amnesties with rebel fighters in some other areas after long sieges accompanied by intense bombardment, a model some analysts say may be used in Aleppo. On Wednesday, the army said it was reducing airstrikes and shelling in Aleppo to alleviate the humanitarian situation. But it also called on all fighters and their families to leave rebel-held parts of the city or face “their inevitable fate.” The intense bombardment of Aleppo during an army offensive that began two weeks ago has included several strikes on hospitals, residents and medical workers there have said, but Assad denied in the interview any knowledge of such attacks. He said:
We don’t have a policy to destroy hospitals or schools or any such facility. If there’s such an attack from the army, it could be by mistake. Pindostan does not have the will to reach a peace agreement that would involve allowing airstrikes against Nusra, because they are its only concrete and effective card in the Syrian arena.
Assad offers rebels amnesty if they surrender Aleppo
Ellen Francis, Tom Miles, Reuters, Oct 6 2016
BEIRUT/GENEVA – Rebels holed up in Aleppo can leave with their families if they lay down their arms, Assad said on Thursday, vowing to press on with the assault on the city and recapture full control of the country. Fighters have accepted similar government amnesty offers in other besieged areas in recent months, notably in Daraya, a suburb of Damascus that was under siege for years until rebels surrendered it in August. However, rebels said they had no plan to evacuate Aleppo, and denounced the amnesty offer as a deception. Zakaria Malahifji, a Turkey-based official for the Fastaqim group which is present in Aleppo, told Reuters:
It’s impossible for the rebel groups to leave Aleppo because this would be a trick by the regime. Aleppo is not like other areas, it’s not possible for them to surrender.
Washington was also skeptical of government motives. Citing the heavy civilian toll from air strikes and bombardment, White House spokesman Josh Earnest said:
For them to suggest that somehow they’re now looking out for the interests of civilians is outrageous.
The army announced a reduction in shelling and air strikes on Wednesday to allow people to leave. It backed that up with an ultimatum:
All those who do not take advantage of the provided opportunity to lay down their arms or to leave will face their inevitable fate.
The government also sent text messages to the mobile phones of some of those people trapped in the besieged sector, telling them to repudiate fighters in their midst. Speaking to Danish television, Assad said:
(I shall) continue the fight with the rebels until they leave Aleppo. They have to. There’s no other option.
He said that he wanted rebels to accept a deal to leave the city along with their families and travel to other rebel-held areas, as in Daraya. Neither Assad nor his generals gave a timeline for rebels to accept their offer. A Pindo boxtop said”
The relentless Russian and Syrian bombardments could result in the fall of rebel-held eastern Aleppo within weeks if not days. It’s unclear how long they will last, but considering the destruction of infrastructure that supports life, they are hanging by a thread. There is only so much they can endure.
Storming Aleppo’s rebel-held zone could take months and cause a bloodbath, de Mistura warned on Thursday. He said:
The bottom line is, in a maximum of two months, two and a half months, the city of eastern Aleppo at this rate may be totally destroyed.
Residents of eastern Aleppo said the aerial bombardment was significantly lighter overnight and on Thursday after the government’s statement, but they said heavy fighting continued on the frontlines and people were afraid. On Thursday, the army and its allies seized half of the Bustan al-Basha quarter of Aleppo, north of the Old City, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported. Ibrahim Abu al-Laith, a Civil Defence official in eastern Aleppo:
The bombardment decreased a lot in the eastern districts, but there’s a sense of foreboding. People are still scared. And because there’s still the siege, there’s nothing at all in the shops.
A resident of the rebel-held district said it was true that air strikes had diminished, but that he had not yet seen any way for civilians to leave the area. “It’s not true that there are safe crossings,” he said. Residents in eastern Aleppo forwarded to Reuters text messages they said had been sent by their telecom provider carrying a government warning urging them to distance themselves from rebels and to depart. One message said:
Our people in Aleppo: save your lives by rejecting the terrorists and isolating them from you. Our dear people in the eastern districts of Aleppo! Come out to meet your brothers and sisters.
Meanwhile, rebels continued the shelling of residential areas of government-held western Aleppo. The Observatory said 10 people were killed and 52 wounded in government-held areas of Aleppo city by rebels on Thursday. The UN envoy de Mistura on Thursday urged Moscow and Damascus to accept a deal under which the fighters of that group would leave the city, while other insurgents and civilians would be allowed to remain. He said there were fewer than 1,000 members of Nusra inside Aleppo, part of a contingent of around 8,000 rebel fighters, and offered to lead them out of the city himself to guarantee their safety. Russian presidential envoy Mikhail Bogdanov said it was “high time” such an offer was made, but it was not immediately clear if Moscow was also willing to stop the bombing. A Pindo State Dept boxtop said:
We’re not able to verify that that’s accurate. We believe they are a minority of the opposition fighters in the city.
The boxtop was asked 😉 whether, if de Mistura actually carried out his proposal to escort the fighters out of Aleppo, it might simply make it easier for Syrian forces to take the city, because some of their most effective opponents would have been removed. The boxtop replied 😉 :
It might… Potentially…
Putin will visit Paris on Oct 19 to discuss Syria with Pres Hollande, the only diplomatic track still active over efforts to bring peace to the country. In his Danish TV interview, Assad accused Washington of using Nusra as a proxy, and said this was why the ceasefire had collapsed. He said:
It’s a Pindosi card. Without Nusra, the Pindos cannot have any real, let’s say, concrete and effective card in the Syrian arena