Pro-Assad forces are on the verge of capturing all remaining opposition-held areas of Syria's largest city Aleppo, with fears of death or detention for tens of thousands of civilians. Regime troops and allied Iranian-led foreign and paramilitary forces, supported by intense Russian air-strikes, took all but a few remaining districts on Dec. 12. Claims circulate of the execution of scores of civilians in districts that have fallen to pro-regime forces. Residents and activists spoke of widespread detention of fighting-age men. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon's office issued a statement voicing alarm over "reports of atrocities against a large number of civilians, including women and children, in recent hours in Aleppo." UN humanitarian adviser Jan Egeland said Assad and Russia will be held "accountable for any and all atrocities that the victorious militias in Aleppo are now committing."
As pro-regime forces advance, residents have sent messages of despair or resignation. Aleppo blogger Lina Shamy tweeted a short video statement: "To everyone who can hear me, we are here exposed to a genocide." Damascus state media meanwhile broadcast images of Aleppo residents celebrating. The Syrian military said final victory was hours away.
Moscow effectively confirmed that it had sought US cooperation on a removal of rebels and civilians from Aleppo. Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told a news conference in Belgrade: "From Dec. 3 when we met John Kerry in Rome they supported such a concept [total rebel withdrawal] and even gave us their approval on paper. But after three days they revoked that agreement and returned to their old, dead-end position which comprises this: before the agreement on corridors there has to be a truce… As I understand, this would just mean the rebels would get a break."
Last weekend a US-Russian proposal was presented to the opposition for the withdrawal of rebels, families, and civilians. However, as pro-Assad forces renewed their advance, Moscow denied any agreement with Washington.
Lavrov also broached a possible US conspiracy, saying the current ISIS re-capture of Palmyra from the Assad regime may have been "orchestrated, coordinated" by the US-led coalition “to give a break to those bandits that are in eastern Aleppo." (EA Worldview, BBC News, Dec. 13)