Syrian rebels on Wednesday vowed to fight on in east Aleppo in the face of sudden government advances that have cut the city’s opposition sector by a third in recent days and brought insurgents to the brink of a catastrophic defeat. Gains by the Syrian army and its allies since last week have brought whole districts back under government control and led to an exodus, as more than 50,000 people have fled their pulverized neighborhoods near the rapidly shifting front lines. Rescue workers said regime shelling on an opposition-controlled area killed at least 45 civilians Wednesday, mostly women and children.
For the sake of humanity we call on — we plead — with the parties and those with influence to do everything in their power to protect civilians and enable access to the besieged part of eastern Aleppo before it becomes one giant graveyard.
Stephen O'Brien, the U.N. under-secretary-general for humanitarian affairs
Russia, Assad’s most powerful international ally, whose air force has pounded rebels for more than a year, said it hoped the Aleppo situation could be resolved by the end of the year. But rebels in the city have vowed not to surrender. While the opposition’s lines collapsed unexpectedly in parts of eastern of Aleppo this weekend, sources on the government side say the next phase could be more difficult, as they try to take more densely populated areas of the city. Thousands of people who have fled the fighting have gone into the Kurdish-controlled Sheikh Maqsoud district rather than hand themselves over to a government that U.N. investigators have accused of secretly detaining activists and civilians. Damascus says such reports of arbitrary detention and torture are fabricated and intended to scare the people into staying under rebel rule. With diplomatic efforts to resolve the war in deadlock, and uncertainty over the position that the next U.S. administration will take on Syria, Moscow said it had been in contact with President-elect Donald Trump’s team on the matter.