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The New Arab

Assad vows to 'fight on' despite international peace efforts

Syria's war has cost nearly 500,000 lives, the majority victims of the regime. [Getty]

Date of publication: 12 May, 2017

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Bashar al-Assad said Russian de-escalation zones were a chance for rebels to seek 'reconciliation' with the regime, but vowed to continue fighting as Syria's brutal civil war continues.
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad appeared to reject international peace efforts on Thursday, saying that proposed Russian "de-escalation zones" offered rebels a chance to "seek reconciliation" with the regime, but vowed to continue his fight a war which has cost half a million lives.

The safe-zone deal calls for the establishment of four "de-escalation" zones across stretches of eight Syrian provinces, which would see a freeze in bombing of these areas and localised ceasefires.

Neither the Syrian regime or the opposition has signed the deal, however, and Assad has rejected any role by international monitors or the UN.

In an interview with Belarusian TV Channel ONT, Assad said his army would defend the safe zones with support from Iran and Hizballah, and fight anyone who "breaches them".

The deal would give opposition fighters "who want reconciliation with the state a chance ... to settle their cases, hand over their weapons in return for amnesty," Assad said, according to Reuters.

He said the Syrian regime is "not tired" and will continue to fight on in the grueling six-year civil war.

In the same interview, he said that US President Donald Trump only carried out airstrikes on Syria to "present his credentials" to US political and lobby groups, again denying responsibility for the attack.

Earlier Thursday, a deal which would have seen rebel fighters and civilians leave their homes in the northern Damascus suburbs was put on hold after the Syrian regime went back on an agreement to release detainees, opposition media reported.

Other areas saw evacuations take place, with a batch of civilians leaving the rebel-held Homs' district of al-Waer.

A number of besieged opposition councils across the country have agreed to so-called "evacuation deals" with the regime in recent months, after crippling blockades on rebel enclaves left residents without food or medicine.

The "starve and kneel" tactic and the sieges have been condemned by NGOs and the UN.

Evacuation deals, brokered by Russia, have increased over the past few months with civilians from two 
regime-held villages being evacuated from Idlib province in recent weeks.

The deals have been described as "ethnic cleansing" by opponents as large civilian population groups are displaced across the country.

Syria has been embroiled in fighting since 2011 when anti-government protests were brutally put down by regime forces sparking a larger armed uprising.

The fighting has cost Syria nearly 500,000 lives, the vast majority victims of regime bombing.

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