Targeting civilians not in Damascus interest: Syrian leader
Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad has dismissed as untrue accusations that government forces target hospitals and civilian infrastructure in the war-torn country, saying such actions run contrary to Damascus’ interests.
Assad made the remarks in an interview with Denmark’s TV2 station, whose excerpts were released on Thursday.
Some opposition groups and relief agencies have recently claimed that Syrian and Russian jets have been hitting civilian sites in the contested northwestern city of Aleppo, which has been divided since 2012 between government forces in the west and foreign-sponsored militants in the east.
Over the past few months, Syria’s second largest city has witnessed intense fighting and turned into a frontline battleground.
“To say that this is our aim as a government, (that) we give the orders to destroy hospitals or schools or to kill civilians, this is against our interest,” Assad said, noting, however, that mistakes are sometimes committed by individuals in any war.
The media hype over the Damascus government’s anti-terror battles in Aleppo comes against the backdrop of ongoing army gains against the Takfiri groups operating in the city.
The Syrian president further underlined that if the accusations of “committing … atrocities” were true, he could not have remained in office.
Assad further vowed the liberation of entire Syria, including the embattled city of Aleppo, saying, however, that his government prefers local deals and amnesties that would allow the militants to leave for other areas.
The Syrian leader further said there are no “moderate” militants in Syria as claimed by the US.
The US has no interest in a peace agreement that would allow air raids against the Jabhat Fateh al-Sham terrorist group, al-Qaeda’s branch in Syria formerly known as al-Nusra Front, because the Takfiri outfit was its only “concrete and effective card in the Syrian arena,” added Assad.
Elsewhere in his comments, Assad said that Europe is now absent from the international political scene as it is following in Washington’s footsteps, adding that some European countries even “do not dare to take their own independent path in politics.”
UN urges terrorists to leave Aleppo
In another development on Thursday, United Nations Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura called on members of the Jabhat Fateh al-Sham to leave Aleppo so that civilians could access relief.
The UN envoy told a news conference in the Swiss city of Geneva that if the terrorists lay down their weapons “in dignity” and leave Aleppo, he would “personally” accompany them out.
He also warned that Takfiri Jabhat Fateh al-Sham terrorists are in essence holding “hostage” roughly 275,000 people in the embattled Syrian city.
Aleppo faces total destruction, De Mistura said, adding, “In maximum two months, [or] two and a half months the city of eastern Aleppo may be totally destroyed.”
Russia welcomes UN offer
Meanwhile, Russia voiced support for De Mistura’s proposal for escorting the terrorists out of Aleppo.
TASS news agency quoted Mikhail Bogdanov, a Russian presidential envoy for the Middle East and Africa, as saying, “It’s high time” referring to the UN envoy’s plea.
The developments came one day after the Syrian military announced a decision to scale back its attacks against foreign-backed Takfiri terrorists in Aleppo in a bid to allow safe passage for civilians out of the city.
Since March 2011, Syria has been hit by militancy it blames on some Western states and their regional allies.
The so-called Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and De Mistura have put the death toll from the Syria conflict at more than 300,000 and 400,000, respectively. This is while the UN has stopped its official casualty count in Syria, citing its inability to verify the figures it receives from various sources.