Russia FM: Syria Halts East Aleppo Offensive to Evacuate Civilians

Rebels Cornered in Last Districts

by Jason Ditz, December 08, 2016

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has announced the suspension of Syrian military operations in eastern Aleppo, saying that the focus is being shifted to a major evacuation operation to get civilians out of the remaining combat areas.

Lavrov said they expect about 8,000 civilians to keep going through a designated evacuation area, while an ongoing discussion on a withdrawal from the city by the last rebel forces. US officials have been reported to be involved in making a deal with the rebels. There were unconfirmed reports of continued fighting in eastern Aleppo, though indications are they are dying down.

The US continued to say there was no negotiation ongoing with Russia, and that while they express hope that the announced pause in the offensive is a good sign, they are withholding judgement to see how long the pause lasts.

The US and other Western nations have been demanding an unconditional ceasefire for days, with an eye toward preventing the rebels’ outright loss. At this point, the Syrian military appears comfortable that the remaining rebels are trapped in a small enough area that they don’t pose a real threat of recovering, and that they can afford to take time to evacuate civilians.

That’s been a recurring issue, however, as previous attempts to evacuate civilians from rebel-controed area have seen
not only the rebels block a lot of the evacuees, but use such pauses to put together new counter-offensives. At this point, it seems unlikely that such a counter-offensive is going to shift the battle meaningfully.

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