Syria’s Al-Assad says Aleppo victory is “huge step” towards ending war

JOSEPH EID/AFP/Getty Images

BBC – Syrian President Bashar al-Assad said a victory for his army in the second city of Aleppo would be a “huge step” towards ending the country’s devastating five-year civil war.

Defeating rebels in Aleppo, however, would not put an end to Syria’s conflict, Assad said in an interview with Syrian daily Al-Watan to be published on Thursday, an early copy of which was seen by AFP news agency.

“It’s true that Aleppo will be a win for us, but let’s be realistic – it won’t mean the end of the war in Syria,” Assad said. “But it will be a huge step towards this end.”

Since it began in March 2011, the war in Syria has killed hundreds of thousands of people, made more than half of Syrians homeless, and created the world’s worst refugee crisis.

Government forces scored an important victory on Wednesday when the rebels retreated from the Old City, the historic heart of Aleppo.

They extended their advances later in the day, seizing the Bab al-Nayrab, Al-Maadi and Salhin neighbourhoods, according to state media.

More neighbourhoods were expected to fall soon, but rebels were fighting ferociously.

The Syrian Civil Defence, a first responder group also known as the White Helmets, said air strikes and shelling on Wednesday killed 61 people in what’s left of the rebel-held east of the city.

Syria state television reported late on Wednesday that rebel shelling killed 14 civilians and wounded 70 others, some critically, targeting government-held districts in west Aleppo.

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