THE forces of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad are close to winning their most important victory in the five- year civil war. They have closed in on areas near the Old City in Aleppo and may soon drive rebels out of their last urban stronghold. The forces cap- tured the al-Shaar area near the city centre, giving them control of nearly 75% of East Aleppo less than two weeks into the latest ground offensive. Syria's Foreign Ministry says it will not accept any truce in Aleppo, should any outside parties attempt one. Tens of thousands of civilians are trapped in Aleppo.