Rebels propose truce in Aleppo as Syrian troops gain ground

Staring a punishing and brutal defeat in the face, several Syrian rebel factions proposed a five-day ceasefire in the eastern part of the city of Aleppo so the wounded, sick and other civilians can be evacuated.

Syrian residents fleeing the violence in the eastern rebel-held parts of Aleppo evacuate their neighbourhoods. Picture: AFP/Getty Images

The proposal came yesterday as Syrian government troops and allied militiamen declared they have seized control of three-quarters of the enclave that the opposition controlled since 2012.

The ceasefire proposal was signed by the Aleppo command centre, apparently a ­reference to the collection of factions fighting inside the eastern enclave.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

A rebel spokesman said al-Qaeda-linked group Fatah al-Sham Front, which has a limited presence in the enclave, will abide by the proposal. The offer made no mention of a rebel pullout from Aleppo, though the proposal said the fate of the city is to be negotiated after the humanitarian crisis eases.

The Syrian government and its ally Russia had previously rejected a ceasefire for the war-torn city, keeping up the military offensive that has forced rebel retreats and massive displacement of Aleppo civilians. Yesterday, US secretary of state John Kerry and Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov were meeting for talks on Syria in Germany.

Earlier, Syrian government troops and allied militiamen seized more ground in Aleppo’s ancient quarters, further widening their control over an enclave in the divided city, Syria’s state media and a monitoring group said.

With the latest gains, the endgame for Aleppo, which has been carved up between the government and the rebel side for the past four years, appears to draw even closer. If Aleppo - the country’s former commercial hub – is captured by government troops, it would be a turning point in the conflict, putting the four largest cities in Syria and the coastal region back under state control.

A statement by the rebel Aleppo Leadership Council said civilians were still in great danger, and it would support any initiative to ease their suffering.

“Civilians should be either protected or evacuated to a safe area where they will not be under the mercy of Assad and his henchmen,”

The US, UK, France, Canada, Germany and Italy again yesterday called jointly for an immediate ceasefire to allow the UN “to get humanitarian assistance to people in eastern Aleppo”.

Meanwhile, the state news agency said that Israel fired several missiles that landed near an important military airport.