The Syrian military said on Thursday a unilateral ceasefire had come into force to allow rebels to leave the besieged eastern part of Aleppo city. The rebels said was the ceasefire was part of a psychological campaign to make them surrender.
State media earlier said the army had opened exit corridors in two designated areas in the Bustan al Qasr quarter and near the Castello road in northern Aleppo where waiting green buses were shown on state television.
Intensified Russian and Syrian bombing of besieged rebel-held parts of Aleppo have knocked down scores of hospitals, bakeries and water pumping stations in an offensive that has killed hundreds of civilians in the past few weeks.
Merkel and Hollande do not rule out sanctions on Russia over Aleppo ‘war crimes’
On Wednesday night, the leaders of France and Germany lashed out at President Vladimir Putin over Moscow’s bombardment of Aleppo and refused to rule out imposing sanctions on Russia. “What is happening in Aleppo is a war crime. One of the first demands is that the bombardments by the regime and its [Russian] backers must end,” French president François Hollande said after a meeting of the three leaders in Berlin. The German chancellor, Angela Merkel, condemned the air raids on Syria’s second city as “inhumane and cruel”.
Both leaders warned that they could not exclude imposing sanctions on Russia, hours ahead of an EU summit where Russia’s role in Syria is set to be discussed. “Everything that can constitute a threat can be useful,” Hollande said at a press conference. Merkel added: “We cannot remove this option.”
Hollande said Putin appeared to be ready to extend Thursday’s temporary truce, set to last for 11 hours. “We came out of the meeting with the impression that there could be an extension of the truce, but it’s up to the Syrian regime and Russia to show it,” he said. A truce of just a few hours would not be enough to deliver the necessary humanitarian aid and allow civilians to leave the area, Hollande added.
Earlier this week, the Syrian military said the temporary ceasefire would allow trapped civilians to escape and said it had pulled back to enable rebel fighters to leave the city via two designated corridors. “We guarantee a safe exit, save your families,” an army loudspeaker blared near an exit corridor shown live on the pro-Hezbollah news channel Mayadeen. But rebels say the goal of Moscow and President Bashar al-Assad’s government is to empty rebel-held parts of civilians so they can take over the whole city. The rebels say they are preparing a large-scale offensive to break the siege of Aleppo and say the Russian air force has failed, despite a relentless bombing campaign. They say the army and its Iranian-backed militias are finding it harder to make headway after initial progress on the outskirts of the city that allowed the army to tighten its grip.
Sources: AFP/Reuters/Syria & Iraq News