Reportedly, Russia president Vladimir Putin agreed to extend a “humanitarian pause” in the attacks on the besieged city of Aleppo, in Syria, by 24 hours. The new deadline which will expire Friday afternoon will allow authorities evacuate the sick and the injured from the rebel-held city.
We learned about the extension from Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu. Nevertheless, officials are concerned Russia’s move may not yield the expected results. Rebels are reportedly continuing the clashes in the area, while residents are reluctant to leave their homes.
Russia and the Syrian government agreed to cease fire on the city on Tuesday. Under the government’s plan, the wounded and the sick were expected to leave the city through eight corridors.
“Everything can go wrong”
But either the rebels or government forces opened fire on some of the exit corridors. An UN humanitarian taskforce that helps with the evacuation said it hopes to evacuate “several hundred” patients by Friday afternoon.
A spokesperson for the agency said it will receive help from the Red Cross and the World Health Organization (WHO). The taskforce thanked the two governments and the opposition groups for granting it the green light for the operation.
But the spokesperson added that in Syria “everything can go wrong” at any moment. The UN said Russia agreed not to strike for 11 hours every day through Saturday. Russia, on the other hand, confirmed only the one-day extension.
Syria President Bashar Hafez al-Assad’s forces agreed to an eight-hour-long truce per day. The state media brought the news but it couldn’t say for how long. The two governments also agreed to allow rebels leave the city along with their firearms through two exit corridors.
On Wednesday, Orient News TV channel, which touts pro-rebel views, said the truce doesn’t seem very successful. The news outlet said its reporters saw only a few civilians leaving the city through the corridors.
Rebels Barring People from Leaving
Reportedly, Assad snipers keep a close watch of the corridors. But a Syrian news agency said “terrorist groups” opened fire on the corridors. State-run Rossiya 24 confirmed the news adding that members of the Jabhat Fatah al-Sham were stopping people from leaving.
Jabhat Fatah al-Sham is an Islamic State arm which had close ties with al-Qaeda until this summer. The group’s leaders pledged to continue the fight despite Russia’s truce. Other rebel factions dismissed the truce as a publicity stunt.
According to the UN, the jihadist group currently has 900 fighters inside the city.
In September, the Syrian government’s military sealed the eastern segment of Aleppo and opened fire with help from Russia. Nearly 2,700 people have lost their lives or needed medical attention since then.
Officials estimate that 250,000 civilians are now in the crossfire. The U.S. and other Western countries accused Russia of war crimes, an allegation the former soviet country has rejected. Europe said it would keep “all options open, including sanctions” for Russia’s involvement in the Syrian conflict.
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