Assad says Aleppo win ‘huge step’ towards ending Syria war
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Assad says Aleppo win ‘huge step’ towards ending Syria war

After blistering 3-week offensive, regime forces now control most of city's once rebel-dominated east

In this Sunday, December 4, 2016 photo, Nisrin Malaji returns to her looted home in the Hanano district of eastern Aleppo, Syria. (AP Photo/Hassan Ammar)
In this Sunday, December 4, 2016 photo, Nisrin Malaji returns to her looted home in the Hanano district of eastern Aleppo, Syria. (AP Photo/Hassan Ammar)

DAMASCUS — Syrian President Bashar Assad said a victory for his army in the battered second city of Aleppo would be a “huge step” towards ending the country’s five-year civil war.

In an interview with Syrian daily Al-Watan to be published on Thursday, an early copy of which was seen by AFP, Assad said defeating beleaguered rebels in Aleppo would not put an end to Syria’s conflict.

“It’s true that Aleppo will be a win for us, but let’s be realistic — it won’t mean the end of the war in Syria,” Assad said.

“But it will be a huge step towards this end,” he said.

Syrian President Bashar Assad speaks at the presidential palace in Damascus, Syria, Sept. 21, 2016 (Syrian Presidency via AP)
Syrian President Bashar Assad speaks at the presidential palace in Damascus, Syria, Sept. 21, 2016 (Syrian Presidency via AP)

In a blistering three-week offensive, Syrian government forces have seized about 80 percent of east Aleppo, a stronghold for rebel groups since 2012.

Increasingly cornered in a pocket of territory in the city’s southeast, opposition factions on Wednesday called for an “immediate five-day humanitarian ceasefire.”

When asked about the possibility of a truce in Aleppo, Assad said, “it’s practically non-existent, of course.”

“The Americans in particular are insisting on demanding a truce, because their terrorist agents are now in a difficult situation,” Assad told Al-Watan.

Syrian pro-government troops hold a position in Aleppo's eastern Karm al-Jabal neighborhood as they advance towards al-Shaar neighborliness on December 5, 2016 during their offensive to retake Syria's second city. (AFP PHOTO / GEORGE OURFALIAN)
Syrian pro-government troops hold a position in Aleppo’s eastern Karm al-Jabal neighborhood as they advance towards al-Shaar neighborliness on December 5, 2016 during their offensive to retake Syria’s second city. (AFP PHOTO / GEORGE OURFALIAN)

Regime forces scored another important victory on Wednesday when the rebels retreated from the Old City, the historic heart of Aleppo.

They extended their advances later in the day, seizing the Bab al-Nayrab, Al-Maadi and Salhin neighborhoods, according to state media.

Syria’s conflict erupted in March 2011 with widespread demonstrations but has since turned into a brutal multi-front war drawing in world powers.

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