Syrian President Bashar Assad Thursday offered an amnesty to armed rebels battling his forces if they surrender, the official SANA news agency reported.

 

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“Everyone carrying arms… and sought by justice… is excluded from full punishment if they hand themselves in and lay down their weapons,” SANA said, quoting a presidential decree on the three-month amnesty offer.

 

The reprieve also includes any rebel who frees a hostage, according to the decree text.

 

The offer comes as opposition neighborhoods of Aleppo city are effectively surrounded by pro-government forces, sparking fears for the more than 200,000 people trapped there.

 

Assad’s ally Russia said Thursday it had launched a “large-scale” operation with the Syrian government to open humanitarian corridors for civilians and fighters fleeing the northern city.