Forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad have advanced into Aleppo's old city, claiming to have taken it completely, in a move that may see the Syrian opposition suffer their biggest upset since the civil war began in 2011.
Regime forces began their assault to take the historic old city yesterday and continued their offensive overnight, successfully forcing the Syrian opposition to withdraw from Aleppo's most iconic district, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR).
The SOHR, a UK-based war monitor, said that the Assad regime's assault was accompanied by heavy bombardment of the already shattered old city before the army and allied Shia militias mainly from Lebanon and Iraq pressed forward.
Al Jazeera cited Mohammed Al-Sheikh, a military officer in the opposition Free Syrian Army, as saying that the Syrian regime's Russia and Iran-backed offensive over the past two weeks has forced the opposition to withdraw from 12 neighbourhoods, losing two-thirds of eastern Aleppo.
Syrian opposition offer five-day truce
The regime's advance comes just after Syrian opposition factions in besieged eastern Aleppo called for an immediate five-day ceasefire to facilitate negotiations about the future of the city and for medical and civilian evacuations, in a humanitarian plan published today.
A Turkey-based opposition official told Reuters the plan had been sent to international parties which had yet to respond.
The "humanitarian initiative" document signed in the name of the Aleppo Leadership Council, representing all the factions opposed to the Assad regime, asked for all involved parties to discuss the future of the city once the humanitarian situation in the opposition-held sector of the divided city had been alleviated.
The document also called for the evacuation of around 500 critical medical cases from east Aleppo under United Nations supervision. The document also called for civilians wanting to leave east Aleppo to be evacuated to the northern Aleppo countryside, rather than Idlib province.
Fighters and civilians from opposition-held areas around Syria have often previously been transferred to their holdings in Idlib under settlement agreements reached with the regime. But the document said Idlib is now too dangerous because of intense Russian and regime airstrikes, as well as being unable to cope with more displaced persons.
The document said opposition fighters in Aleppo will support any regional or international initiative to lighten the suffering of their people, and repeated their readiness to guarantee the safety of United Nations and humanitarian organisations wanting to carry out humanitarian operations.