European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini is convinced the fall of rebel-held areas of the Syrian city of Aleppo to the regime would not end the war in the country, she said on Saturday.
“I’m convinced the fall of Aleppo will not end the war,” Mogherini said during a panel discussion at a conference in Rome war with U.N. Syria envoy Staffan de Mistura.
As for de Mistura, he hoped “some type of formula” could be found to avoid a “terrible battle” in Aleppo.
Speaking at the conference, he indicated the battle for Aleppo would not last that much longer, saying “the fact is that Aleppo is not going to stay that long”.
“I was feeling it would be a terrible battle ending up by Christmas-New Year. I hope the battle will not take place, that there will be some type of formula,” he said.
Her statement came as Syrian regime and allied forces advanced overnight seizing Aleppo’s Tariq al-Bab neighborhood from rebels as they press an offensive to recapture the entire city, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said on Saturday.
The capture of the neighborhood means the regime has now retaken around 60 percent of the east of the city, which the rebels overran in mid-2012.
However, a Turkey-based official with one of the rebel groups in Aleppo said regime forces had advanced in the area but rebels were repelling them.
The regime’s attack on Tariq al-Bab came after ferocious clashes that sent civilians flooding out of the adjacent neighborhood of Al-Shaer.
The Observatory said at least three people were killed in an air strike on the al-Shaer. The civil defense rescue service in eastern Aleppo said a gathering of displaced people had been struck and put the death toll at more than six
More than 300 civilians have been killed in east Aleppo since the regime resumed its offensive to oust the rebels on November 15.
The United Nations has warned that the sector risks becoming a “giant graveyard” for the 250,000-plus civilians who were trapped there just last week. Tens of thousands have since fled.
The latest developments on the battlefield were accompanied by a stern stance from rebels.
A rebel official said that rebel commanders will not surrender eastern Aleppo to regime forces after Russia claimed it was ready for talks with the United States on the withdrawal of all rebels from the area.
“I asked the factions, they said ‘we will not surrender’,” said Zakaria Malahifji, the head of the political office of the Aleppo-based Fastaqim faction, speaking from Turkey.
“The military commanders in Aleppo said ‘we will not leave the city. There is no problem with corridors for civilians to leave, but we will not leave the city’,” he said.