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Syrian Military Calls On Aleppo Rebels To Surrender As Assault Continues

Damaged buildings in a rebel-held area of Aleppo

The Syrian military has called on antigovernment forces to lay down their weapons and evacuate the besieged city of Aleppo, which is under a severe aerial attack by Syrian and Russian aircraft.

The call on October 2 came as Syrian and Russian planes unleashed dozens of air strikes on the rebels and some 250,000 civilians still living in the different parts of Aleppo controlled by antigovernment forces.

Syria's armed forces said in a statement distributed on the state news agency SANA that rebels in Aleppo should give up their positions "and let civilians live their normal lives."

"The Russian and Syrian armies will secure safe passage and aid" to any opposition fighters that defect, it said.

Stephen O'Brien, the UN humanitarian aid chief for Syria, called for immediate international action to stop the attack on the city, which is Syria's largest.

O'Brien said on October 2 that the situation in Aleppo had become a "living hell" for citizens who have lack food, water, power, and medicine.

"The health care system in eastern Aleppo is all but obliterated," he said. "Medical facilities are being hit one by one."

O'Brien said the latest bombings of Aleppo neighborhoods had subjected residents to "a level of savagery that no human should have to endure."

British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson was sharply critical of Syria and Russia on October 2 during a speech in Birmingham.

"It is the continuing savagery of the [Syrian President Bashar al-]Assad regime against the people of Aleppo and the complicity of the Russians in committing what are blatantly war crimes -- bombing hospitals when they know they are hospitals and nothing but hospitals -- that is making it impossible for peace negotiations to resume and that is prolonging a migration crisis that last year (2015) overwhelmed Europe's ability to cope," he said.

Meanwhile, the fighting in Aleppo continued.

The London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) said rebel fighters and Syrian forces and their allies had exchanged artillery fire in several parts of the city on October 2.

SOHR said Russian bombing raids had "helped regime forces to advance in the north of the city," where they reached the outskirts of the rebel-held Al-Heluk district.

In Brussels, the European Union proposed on October 2 a new humanitarian plan in coordination with the UN, but said it required cooperation from all sides.

The plan would deliver water, medicine, and food from EU stocks in government-held western Aleppo to up to 130,000 people in insurgent-controlled eastern Aleppo and evacuate people with urgent medical needs from the area.

"The EU...intends to work intensively in the next hours and days with the parties concerned to make this [delivery of aid and medical evacuations] happen," said a statement from EU foreign affairs chief Federica Mogherini and EU Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Management Christos Stylianides.

Rebels and aid workers accused the Syrian and Russian aircraft of destroying one of Aleppo's main hospitals on September 30, a a facility called M10 and also known as Sakhur hospital. The second-largest hospital in the area, M2, was also badly damaged by missiles.

European Parliament President Martin Schulz said the bombing of the hospitals was a "war crime," and he tweeted that the international community "must unite to prevent [the] city's annihilation."

The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) issued a demand on October 1 for the UN to intervene in Syria to stop aerial bombardments of Aleppo that it said had killed hundreds of civilians.

Russia has been aiding Syrian forces for one year with air strikes in an effort to keep embattled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in power.

The United States, Turkey, and their allies blame Assad for atrocities that include the use of chemical weapons against his own people, and have called for his removal and armed Syrian fighters to battle Assad's forces and the Islamist militant group Islamic State (IS), which controls swaths of Syria and Iraq.

The five-year conflict in Syria has killed more than 250,000 Syrians and displaced around half the country's prewar population, or around 11 million people.

In addition to Russia, Assad is also supported by Iranian ground forces and Shi'ite militia fighters from Lebanon and Iraq.

Based on reporting by AFP, AP, and Reuters