Eastern Aleppo ceasefire in force, says Syrian military

Teddy bears placed in Berlin by global civic group Avaaz in protest against Aleppo's bombing.
Teddy bears placed in Berlin by global civic group Avaaz in protest against Aleppo's bombing.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Move allows people to exit besieged city but rebels say it's a ploy to get them to surrender

AMMAN • The Syrian military said yesterday that a three-day unilateral ceasefire backed by Russia had come into force to allow people to leave besieged eastern Aleppo city, a move the rebels have said is part of a psychological campaign to get them to surrender.

State media earlier said the army had opened exit corridors in two designated areas in the Bustan al- Qasr quarter and near Castello Road in northern Aleppo. Waiting buses were shown on state television.

Intensified Russian and Syrian bombing of besieged rebel-held parts of Aleppo in the past weeks has hit hospitals, bakeries and water-pumping stations and killed hundreds of civilians.

Russian President Vladimir Putin yesterday said he was ready to prolong a unilateral ceasefire in Aleppo, after tough talks in Berlin where German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande refused to rule out sanctions against Moscow. Mr Putin said he told the European leaders that Russia was "intending to extend as far as possible" a halt to its air raids in Syria's second city. The concession came as Mr Hollande starkly condemned the bombing as "a war crime" and Dr Merkel described it as "inhumane and cruel".

European Union leaders meeting in Brussels are also weighing sanctions against supporters of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's regime if they fail to stop atrocities, according to a draft summit statement that appears to target Russia.

The 250,000 civilians trapped inside the besieged rebel-held parts of Aleppo have stayed away from the corridors. The army blames rebels opposed to Mr Assad for preventing the civilians from leaving and said they use civilians as human shields.

NO WISH TO LEAVE

They talk about humanitarian corridors, but why are they not allowing food into besieged eastern Aleppo to alleviate our suffering? We only need the Russian bombers to stop killing our children. We don't want to leave.

SAKHOUR DISTRICT RESIDENT AMMAR AL-QARAN

Rebels said the goal of Moscow and Mr Assad is to empty the rebel- held areas of civilians to take over the city. "They talk about humanitarian corridors, but why are they not allowing food into besieged eastern Aleppo to alleviate our suffering? We only need the Russian bombers to stop killing our children. We don't want to leave," said Sakhour district resident Ammar al-Qaran.

Syrian military helicopters dropped leaflets over rebel-held areas in Aleppo yesterday, detailing exit routes for civilians and rebels, a military source told Xinhua. The maps highlight six routes for civilians who want to leave the rebel- held areas in eastern Aleppo into government-controlled ones, and two routes for rebels who want to move to other rebel-held areas in the Aleppo countryside, the source said on condition of anonymity.

The Syrian Army General Command urged the rebels to lay down weapons and take advantage of a pardon issued by Mr Assad for all rebels who surrender.

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, XINHUA

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 21, 2016, with the headline 'Eastern Aleppo ceasefire in force, says Syrian military'. Print Edition | Subscribe