Well this is rich.
A day or so after swearing that the Russian contingent wouldn’t be quitting Aleppo any time soon because there are still “bandits” afoot, Sergei Lavrov is apparently prepared to guarantee safe passage to rebel fighters willing to abandon their posts in the city, according to a Reuters report that cites insurgent commanders.
Rebels would be permitted to evacuate in an “honorable” fashion carrying light weapons and would be allowed to go anywhere they please unless they belong to Jabhat Fateh al-Sham (which used to be the al-Qaeda-linked Nusra Front) in which case they would be forced to flee to Idlib.
Moscow has denied that any such deal is on the table. Although this will almost undoubtedly be pitched as an act of good faith on the part of the Assad regime, Russia, and Iran, allowing the rebels to evacuate now represents but a small concession. After all, Aleppo represents the last rebel stronghold in what’s commonly known as “useful Syria” and as Reuters goes on to note, regime forces backed by Shiite militia and Russian air power were closing in Sunday on the last rebel footholds in the city:
If the proposal were to be taken up by all sides, it would end four years of fighting in the city, and months of siege and intense bombardment that have created a humanitarian crisis – particularly in rebel territory that has now shrunk to a small pocket crammed with civilians.
As the army swept through east Aleppo in the past two weeks, taking three quarters of rebel ground, tens of thousands fled the fighting, some to government-held areas and others deeper into the insurgent pocket.
New army gains on Sunday south of Aleppo’s historic citadel appeared to bring victory closer for Assad, with a rebel official saying world powers seemed to be presenting his side with a choice of “death or surrender”.
Heavy shelling and air raids pounded Aleppo’s rebel enclave from midnight on Saturday and throughout Sunday morning, a Reuters reporter in the city said, with explosions at a rate of more than one a minute. Gunfire was also heard.
Meanwhile, ISIS has reportedly retaken the ancient city of Palmyra.
Russian news agencies reported that air strikes had killed 300 militants overnight near Palmyra but that more than 4,000 fighters had still managed to launch the attack on the city.
Right. But who cares? Palmyra may be a historical treasure, but it’s not part of the country’s Western backbone and thus is more symbolic than strategic. Better to squeeze the last bit of life from anyone still supporting the rebels in Aleppo than worry too much about what ISIS is doing in Palmyra.
Of course the Russians will know exactly where the rebels and their civilian backers end up assuming they are indeed allowed to flee Aleppo and you can bet Assad’s forces will ultimately hunt them down. Despite the protestations of alt. media outlets determined to pretend as though there’s a “choice” here that would ultimately allow rebel fighters and civilian dissidents to return to a “normal” life (one site actually used the word “normal” to describe what Assad, Russia, and Hezbollah have brought to Aleppo), the only real option here is to flee to Western Europe. Of course now, thanks in no small part to the nationalistic furor brought on by the rise of populism across the bloc, the EU is fast on its way to becoming just as hostile an environment for refugees as the countries from which they’re fleeing.
Below, find a flyby courtesy of Reuters that vividly depicts the destruction and utter desolation in Aleppo’s Old City which is now under government control: