Aleppo residents celebrate full liberation from militants
The residents of Aleppo have taken to the Syrian city’s streets to celebrate the imminent official announcement of the city’s full liberation from militants.
According to Syrian army officials on Monday, 99 percent of the formerly occupied regions of the city have been recovered by government forces, adding that the army is in the "last moments before declaring victory."
"The battle in eastern Aleppo should end quickly. They (militants) don't have much time. They either have to surrender or die," said Lieutenant General Zaid al-Saleh, the director of the government's Aleppo security committee.
Press TV’s correspondent in the city says that there are reports of the complete liberation of Aleppo.
Earlier, the so-called Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the battle to liberate the city had reached its end and that government forces were making their final advances into the militant-held parts of the city. “The battle of Aleppo has reached its end. It is just a matter of a small period of time, no more, no less...," said the group’s director, Rami Abdulrahman.
He noted that the militants have now withdrawn from the last six neighborhoods they were using as hideouts in the city.
Less than a month ago, the Syrian army started a wholesale push to drive the militants out of their stronghold in the city’s eastern side, making great strides in the process.
Aleppo’s complete liberation from the foreign-backed militants would mark a significant victory for Syria in its nearly six-year-long campaign against foreign-backed militants. The liberation of Aleppo would deny the militants their main supply routes across the Turkish border while it would hugely undermine the morale of the militant groups.
‘Daesh Palmyra offensive Aleppo diversion’
Also on Monday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said that Daesh’s latest attack on Palmyra was “apparently” launched from Iraq’s Mosul from “territories patrolled by the aircraft of the US-led coalition." He added this "makes one think that – and I really hope to be wrong here -- that it was orchestrated and coordinated to give a respite to those thugs, who are entrenched in eastern Aleppo.”
He noted that the US had been using a conflicting policy towards the terrorists in Syria since the beginning of the conflict some six years ago, by battling Daesh but openly avoiding conflict with other terrorists groups.
“There is a significant number of reasons to believe that [Al-Nusra] is being spared as the most effective combat-capable force, which opposes the governmental [forces] of the ground in order to be used for overthrowing the legitimate Syrian government when the time comes,” he added.
While admitting that talks between Moscow and Washington over Syria are difficult, Lavrov voiced hopes that the US would stop exonerating the militants and commit to a “fundamental agreement” based on the “uncompromising struggle against terrorism.”
In recent days, Daesh, the most brutal of the terror groups operating in Syria since 2014, has resurfaced in the ancient city of Palmyra in the west-central province of Homs.
The group was driven out of the city back in March after holding it for some 10 months.
Recently, it mobilized more than 4,000 terrorists, according to the official Syrian Arab News Agency, re-entering the city of Palmyra amid fierce clashes with the army.
Reports on Sunday morning indicated that Daesh's attempts to re-enter Palmyra had been reversed, but various sources said later in the day that they had managed to force their way back into the city.
Assad receives letter from Pope
Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad has received a letter from Pope Francis in which the pontiff voiced his sympathies for the people of Syria over the difficulties they had endured during the country’s years of conflict.
The Vatican’s top diplomat in Syria, Cardinal Mario Zenari, delivered the letter personally to Assad on Monday.
In his letter, the Pope condemned all manners of extremism and terrorism across the globe and especially in Syria. He also called for uniting all efforts to end the conflict in the country and to restore peace.
Since March 2011, Syria has been hit by militancy it blames on some Western states and their regional allies. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and UN 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.