Won't leave Aleppo: Syrian rebels to US
As Moscow calls for full withdrawal of fighters, rebels say they won’t give up their homes to regime’s militias
A bus carrying Syrians from various western districts drives past damaged buildings in Aleppo’s Shihan neighbourhood. pic/AFP
Beirut: Syrian rebel groups have told the US they will not leave Aleppo, after Moscow called for talks with Washington over a full withdrawal of rebel fighters from the city’s besieged eastern districts, a rebel official said yesterday.
Speaking from Turkey, senior rebel official Zakaria Malahifji said the message was delivered to US officials in contacts on Saturday following the statement from Russia, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s most powerful ally. “Our response to the Americans was as follows: we cannot leave our city, our homes, to the mercenary militias that the regime has mobilised in Aleppo,” said Malahifji, the head of the political office of an Aleppo rebel group.
The US officials had asked the rebels “do you want to leave, (or) do you want to be steadfast", Malahifji said. “They listened to the response and did not comment,” he said.
The rebels called on the “friends of the Syrian people” to stand by them and for the urgent delivery of food and medicine to eastern Aleppo and for the wounded to be evacuated, he said.
The Russian-backed Syrian army has captured large areas of eastern Aleppo from rebels in the latest phase of its campaign to take back all of Aleppo. The Syrian government has also been supported by Shi’ite militias from other countries, including Iraq, Lebanon and Afghanistan. “We can’t leave our homes to Afghanis, to Iraqis, and so on,” Malahifji said.
“(The US officials) were in contact with me and with some of the military and political leaders in Aleppo. We agreed on this answer.”
The US has yet to comment on the proposal made by Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Saturday for talks on the withdrawal of all rebel fighters “without exclusion” from Aleppo.
Leave or die: Syrian army to rebels
Syria’s army says it is offering rebel fighters in eastern Aleppo a chance to leave the city. Army spokesman Brig. Gen. Samir Suleiman said those who choose to stay will face “inevitable death”. “We will continue fighting until we restore stability and security to all neighbourhoods,” he added.
No room for the dead
The old Aleppo cemetery filled up a year ago, the new one last week. Now the dead are left in the besieged enclave’s streets, buried in backyards and overwhelming the morgues. Medical officials secured yet another plot for the dead. But they say they have no way to dig graves with government troops now crashing into opposition-held eastern Aleppo, shelling civilians as they flee.
Water activist Amla Ruia speaks to mid-day