Air strikes, fighting mark end of Aleppo ceasefire

image

Heavy clashes erupt in several areas of Syrian city
after ‘humanitarian pause’ announced by Russia
ends.
Heavy clashes erupted between regime and rebel
forces in Syria’s divided city of Aleppo after a
unilateral ceasefire announced by Russia expired,
the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR)
said.
The first Syrian or Russian air strikes on Aleppo,
Syria’s most populous city before the civil war,
since Russia began the pause in hostilities on
Thursday hit a key frontline in the city’s southwest.
Ground clashes and shelling, which had continued
throughout the day on frontlines, intensified.
The pause began on Thursday, and came after
Moscow announced a temporary halt to the Syrian
army’s campaign to recapture the divided city.

Moscow had extended the unilateral “humanitarian
pause” into a third day until 1600 GMT Saturday,
but announced no further renewal of the truce
despite a UN request for longer to evacuate
wounded civilians.
“Members of popular civil committees from regime
districts entered the eastern neighbourhoods to try
to evacuate the injured but failed,” SOHR head
Rami Abdel Rahman said.
The SOHR reported fierce fighting in several areas
of Aleppo, with three people wounded by shelling
of the rebel-held Salaheddin and Al-Mashhad
districts.
No civilians were evacuated during the truce, Ingy
Sedky, spokeswoman for the International
Committee of the Red Cross in Syria, said, adding
that evacuations were impossible due to the poor
security situation in the city.
Syrian state media and Russian authorities have
accused rebels in the east of preventing civilians
from leaving and using them as “human shields”.
More than 2,000 civilians have been wounded
since the army launched its offensive to drive the
rebels out of the eastern districts they have held
since 2012. Nearly 500 people have been killed.

About 250,000 to 300,000 civilians are thought to
be trapped in eastern Aleppo, with dwindling food
supplies and extremely limited medical care in
underground hospitals that have themselves been
hit repeatedly by airstrikes.
The UN had hoped to use the ceasefire to evacuate
seriously wounded people, and possibly deliver
aid. But a UN official said the requisite security
guarantees had not been received.
“You have various parties to the conflict and those
with influence. They all have to be on the same
page on this and they are not,” said David
Swanson, a spokesman for the UN humanitarian
office.
No aid has entered Aleppo since July 7 and food
rations will run out by the end of the month, UN
chief Ban Ki-moon warned on Thursday.

The UN had asked Moscow to consider extending
the pause until Monday evening, but there was no
word of any extension as the 1600 GMT deadline
passed.
Moscow accuses rebels of preventing civilians
from leaving, with senior Russian military official
Sergei Rudskoi accusing them of “using the
ceasefire in their interests”.
Russia is a key ally of Syria’s government and
began a military intervention in support of
President Bashar al-Assad last September.
Elsewhere in Aleppo province, Turkish forces and
allied Syrian rebels were shelling the Kurdish-Arab
Syrian Democratic Forces coalition in several
villages.
On Friday, a UN human rights council resolution
called for “a comprehensive, independent special
inquiry into the events in Aleppo”.
It also demanded that warring parties provide
unrestricted humanitarian access to desperate
civilians and “end immediately all bombardments
and military flights over Aleppo city”.

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