Syria's Assad says 'no option' but to expel rebels from Aleppo

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Assad told Danish TV he would 'continue the fight with the rebels till they leave Aleppo.... There's no other option'

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad (L) speaks during an interview with Denmark's TV2 channel on 6 October, 2016 (AFP)
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Thursday 6 October 2016 20:57 UTC
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Syrian President Bashar al-Assad on Thursday warned rebels in Aleppo that unless they agreed to a deal with the government, his forces would have "no option" but to expel them from the city.

The Syrian leader made the comments in an interview with Danish broadcaster TV2 aired two weeks after his forces announced an all-out offensive for second city Aleppo.

In his interview, Assad said the "best option" for Aleppo would be "reconciliations (like) in other areas," referring to towns and districts where opposition groups had agreed to local truces with the regime.

Otherwise, he said, he would "continue the fight with the rebels till they leave Aleppo.... There's no other option."

Meanwhile, the UN Security Council will hold an emergency meeting on Friday on Syria after a UN envoy warned that eastern Aleppo may be totally destroyed in the next few months by the Russian and Syrian air campaign.

Russia requested the meeting to hear from UN envoy Staffan de Mistura, who will brief the council via video conference from Geneva at 1400 GMT, diplomats said.

De Mistura earlier took aim at Russia, suggesting that Moscow was indiscriminately bombing a city with hundreds of thousands of civilians to flush out just a few hundred militants.

"We are talking about 900 people, basically, who are becoming the main reason for which there is 275,000 people actually being attacked," said de Mistura.

Would this, he asked, be the excuse for "the destruction of the city?"

"In maximum two months, two-and-a-half months, the city of eastern Aleppo may be totally destroyed," he told reporters.

Syria's armed forces announced a large-scale assault on rebel territory in eastern parts of Aleppo on 22 September.

Since then, government troops backed by Syrian and Russian warplanes have chipped away at opposition territory inside the city and on its outskirts.

The Syrian military said late Wednesday it would "reduce" air strikes on rebel territory to allow civilians in the city to flee.

The aerial component of Assad's campaign had come under fierce international scrutiny in recent days, particularly after a series of air strikes on hospitals in opposition-held quarters.

On Monday, the largest hospital in Aleppo's east was completely destroyed in bombardment.

But Assad denied his forces deliberately target medical infrastructure or restricted aid to civilians in the city.

"We never prevented any medical supply or food supply or any other thing from entering east Aleppo. There's no embargo, if that's what you mean," he said in the interview.

"As a government, we don't have a policy to destroy hospitals or schools or any such facility," he said, adding that such an attack would be "like shooting ourselves in the foot" because it would boost support for anti-regime groups.

This article is available in French on Middle East Eye French edition.