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Syria Says No To Autonomous Administration In East Aleppo

  • RFE/RL

Injured boys at a field hospital after air strikes on the rebel held areas of Aleppo on November 18

Injured boys at a field hospital after air strikes on the rebel held areas of Aleppo on November 18

The Syrian government has rejected a proposal by the United Nations to grant Aleppo’s rebel-held areas autonomy to help restore calm to the northern city.

"This was completely rejected,” Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Muallem said after talks with UN special envoy to Syria Staffan de Mistura in Damascus on November 20, amid an intensified government military campaign in Aleppo.

The state's institutions "must be restored" to the city once rebels have been expelled from eastern districts, Muallem said, adding that Syria doesn't accept leaving some 275,000 people in east Aleppo as "hostages to 6,000 gunmen."

De Mistura told reporters in Damascus later in the day that he had proposed that jihadist fighters should leave Aleppo but that the government should let the local administration in rebel-held areas of the city stay in place.

Muallem had ruled out that, saying it was a "violation of our sovereignty."

But De Mistura said that he believed such measures could be temporary and that Aleppo should be treated as a special case.

Earlier this week, the UN envoy warned that the Syrian government was chasing a "pyrrhic victory" in Aleppo if it does not arrive at a political settlement with the opposition.

He also warned that the military's unrestrained approach would drive more moderate rebels into the ranks of the Islamic State extremist group.

World Health Organization official Elizabeth Hoff said on November 19 that five days of air and artillery strikes by government forces have left all medical facilities in Aleppo's rebel-held districts "out of service."

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said 103 people have been killed in these areas since the latest government assault began on November 15, following a three-week moratorium.

Thirteen have died in the government-controlled areas.

On November 20, activists and state media said 12 children died in the government-held west of Aleppo after a school was hit by rebel fire.

Fifty-nine other people were injured at the school in the Furqan neighborhood, according to the SANA news agency.

And in rebel-held Sakhour district, medics were quoted as saying a barrel bomb killed a family of six.

White House national security adviser Susan Rice said on November 19 that the United States condemned "in the strongest terms" the latest air strikes against medical facilities and urged Russia, an ally of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, to take steps to halt the violence.

Aleppo has been divided between government control in the west and rebel control in the east since mid-2012.

With reporting by Reuters, AP, and AFP
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