Foreign-backed militant groups have rejected withdrawing their members from northern Syrian city of Aleppo amid an announcement by Damascus and Moscow of a halt in airstrikes on militant positions in the city.
Al-Farouk Abu Bakr, a top militant commander in the Saudi-backed Ahrar al-Sham terrorist group, said in a statement on Tuesday that the militants would fight on until the downfall of the Syrian government.
Zakaria Malahifji, the political officer of the Turkey-backed Fastaqim group, said, “The factions completely reject any exit, this is surrender.”
The Syrian government says groups linked to al-Qaeda or inspired by the group have massive presence in Aleppo.
The halt in airstrikes is aimed at granting civilians and militants the opportunity to evacuate and withdraw from the city and for the wounded to seek treatment.
When initially announced on October 17, the pause was scheduled to take effect on Tuesday, from 8:00 (0500 GMT) until 16:00, to allow civilians and militants not affiliated with terrorists to leave the city.
Aleppo, Syria’s second largest city, has been divided between the government forces and foreign-backed militants since 2012. The Syrian army launched operations to reunite the government-held western part and the militant-held eastern section of Aleppo on September 22, with the support of the Russian air force.
The conflict in Syria, which began in March 2011, has claimed the lives of more than 400,000 people, according to an estimate by UN Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura.
Russia warns against Daesh terrorists fleeing Iraq’s Mosul for Syria
Meanwhile, Russia has warned against letting Daesh terrorists flee the northern Iraqi city of Mosul for eastern Syria, saying Moscow will take necessary military and diplomatic measures to prevent this.
Speaking at a news briefing in Moscow, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Tuesday that Moscow would take appropriate military and political decisions to stop Daesh terrorists from fleeing northern Iraq.
On October 16, the Iraqi government announced the beginning of a major offensive to drive Daesh out of Mosul.
The operation comes amid reports that the US and Saudi Arabia have struck a deal with Daesh to grant its members free passage out of the city on the condition that they relocate into Syria.