Fighting continued at several locations inside the Nusra Front-held eastern half of the Syrian city of Aleppo, as the military tried to expel the Islamist rebels from key neighborhoods. Airstrikes were also reported, as the Syrian government made a surprise offer of safe passage if the rebels flee.
An official statement released on Syrian state media and made on behalf of both the Syrian and Russian governments offered all armed rebel factions inside eastern Aleppo safe passage as well as “aid as necessary” if they agreed to leave the city “and let civilian residents live their normal lives.”
This is not totally without precedent. Throughout the Syrian Civil War the government has on several occasions made such deals to secure the recovery of important neighborhoods or districts within cities, at times even busing the rebels out of the area and into other rebel territory.
That it’s being raised as a possibility in Aleppo, however, is a surprise, both because the fighting there has been extremely fierce, with no sign that any backdoor deals are likely to be accepted, and because the Syrian military has repeatedly claimed recently that they are on the verge of a total military victory in the city.
Still, the civilian toll of fighting in Aleppo is substantial, and resolving the fighting without further bloodshed would be a major win for the Syrian government on the international stage, as well as a blow to US and other Western officials who are presenting the Syrian government and its Russian allies as brutal savages looking to kill as many people as possible in the city.