One day following a joint-Russian-U.S. proposal tendering safe passage to rebels holed up in the besieged city of Aleppo, Syrian opposition groups have accepted the proposal to abandon the enclave to forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
“According to the latest information that we received in the last hour, military actions in eastern Aleppo are over. My latest information is that they indeed have an arrangement achieved on the ground that the fighters are going to leave the city,” said Russian ambassador to the UN, Valery Churkin, when announcing the end of hostilities in Aleppo.
The accord reached in the last 24 hours ends four-and-a-half years of savage fighting for the 4,000-year-old city.
Under the agreement, rebels are allowed to retain light weapons, but opposition groups must abandon heavy weaponry and artillery pieces. Similarly, the settlement guarantees safe passage to those rebels willing to leave the city and the Syrian government has pledged it will safeguard civilians who wish to remain in Aleppo.
Opposition forces were expected to abandon their positions in the city within hours; Syrian government forces are expected to begin occupation immediately.
Once populated by over 1.8 million citizens, Aleppo has experienced relentless aerial bombardment from both Russian and Syrian air forces over the last year, which has driven thousands from the city and left over 30,000 dead.
Although the negotiated settlement is considered an overwhelming victory for Assad, the fall of Aleppo does not signal an end to the six-year conflict: Broad regions of Syria, particularly Idlib Governorate, remain in the hands of opposition forces and the Islamic State (ISIS) re-captured the ancient city of Palmyra over the weekend.
[IB Times] [euronews] [Photo courtesy Reuters via Al Jazeera]