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UN asks al-Qaeda-linked group to 'leave Aleppo'

De Mistura said he would "personally" escort fighters from the city [AFP]

Date of publication: 6 October, 2016

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The UN's Syria envoy has said he would personally escort Fatah al-Sham out of Aleppo, in another comment viewed by activists as out of touch with reality.

The UN's Syria envoy has called on rebel group Fatah al-Sham - formerly known as al-Nusra Front, to leave eastern Aleppo saying he will personally escort them out of the city.

He said their departure would enable civilians to access relief and has been a key demand of the Syrian regime and Russia.

"If you decide to leave with dignity... I am personally ready to physically accompany you," de Mistura said, in a direct appeal to the formerly al-Qaeda affiliated group.

Speaking at a press conference in Geneva de Mistura went as far as asking the leaders of Fatah al-Sham to "look at my eyes" as he made the plea.

He warned that if the group did not leave Aleppo the eastern, rebel-controlled part of the city could face complete annihilation.

"In maximum two months, two and half months the city of eastern Aleppo may be totally destroyed", said de Mistura.

He claimed that the continued presence of Fatah al-Sham in Aleppo had been used as justification by the Syrian regime and its Russian backers for its ongoing bombardment of the city.

Activists and Syrians say that Fatah al-Sham's presence in the city is minimal, and the group is being used as a pretext for Russia to carpet bomb civilian areas and hit the city's infrastructure.

According to UN estimates approximately 275,000 civilians live in east Aleppo which the group now admits is "under siege".

Aid deliveries into the area have been made all but impossible since pro-regime forces wrestled control of the last supply route into east Aleppo in July.

Since the collapse of a Russian-US brokered ceasefire in late September regime advances on rebel-held territory in the city have been accompanied by indiscriminate bombing campaigns that have targeted hospitals, and left hundreds of civilians dead.

Widespread global outcry has even lead the Obama administration to reconsider its options for Syria.

The State Department revealed earlier this week that it is reconsidering the possibility of military intervention against Bashar al-Assad's forces in Syria given the level of destruction in Aleppo.

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