Syr­ian gov­ern­ment opens new Aleppo cor­ri­dor for evac­u­a­tions

Malta Independent - - WORLD -

The Syr­ian gov­ern­ment on Fri­day opened a new cor­ri­dor for rebels and civil­ians who want to leave the be­sieged east­ern neigh­bor­hoods of Aleppo, a move that’s part of a Russia-an­nounced pause in the fight­ing and which the rebels in the city have al­ready dis­missed.

Res­i­dents in east­ern Aleppo have said many won’t go since there are no guar­an­tees that the evac­uees won’t be ar­rested by gov­ern­ment forces.

Even as the cor­ri­dor opened along Aleppo’s main artery to the north, the Castello Road, in­tense clashes and shelling erupted in the Jo­bar neigh­bor­hood in the cap­i­tal of Damascus, ac­tivists and res­i­dents said. The Bri­tain-based Syr­ian Ob­ser­va­tory for Hu­man Rights said there were ca­su­al­ties both among the rebels and the gov­ern­ment forces.

The pan-Arab Al-Mayadeen TV aired live footage from the Castello Road show­ing bull­doz­ers that had opened the road. Buses and am­bu­lances were parked by the road­side, wait­ing to take evac­uees.

The pause in Aleppo fight­ing was an­nounced by Russia to al­low for the evac­u­a­tion of civil­ians and fight­ers, as well as the wounded. Rebels have re­jected the of­fer, say­ing it isn’t se­ri­ous.

Be­fore the pause, Aleppo’s be­sieged dis­tricts were sub­jected to re­lent­less Syr­ian and Rus­sian airstrikes for weeks.

U.N. Sec­re­tary-Gen­eral Ban Ki­moon told an emer­gency meet­ing

of the U.N. Gen­eral Assem­bly that nearly 500 peo­ple have been killed and al­most 2,000 in­jured since the Syr­ian gov­ern­ment launched its of­fen­sive in east­ern Aleppo on Sept. 23.

By mid­day Fri­day, no evac­u­a­tions were seen along the Aleppo cor­ri­dor.

“No one has left the city so far,” said Mo­hammed Abu Ra­jab, who works at an east­ern Aleppo hos­pi­tal that was re­peat­edly hit over the past weeks, knock­ing it out of ser­vice. “Peo­ple are wor­ried they might be de­tained. There are no guar­an­tees.”

Speak­ing by tele­phone, he said any evac­u­a­tions should be co­or­di­nated with the United Na­tions in or­der for peo­ple to feel they can leave safely.

On Thurs­day, gov­ern­ment he­li­copters dropped leaflets over east­ern Aleppo, say­ing that this is “the road to the na­tion.”

“We are ready for help. Take the op­por­tu­nity,” said the leaflets, which car­ried an im­age of a green bus or a dead rebel fighter that car­ried the words “this could be the end” un­der­neath.

The col­lapse of the last truce was fol­lowed by some of the worst bomb­ing of Aleppo in years.

In Geneva, the U.N. hu­man rights chief said the Syr­ian city of Aleppo is “a slaugh­ter­house” and urged the Hu­man Rights Coun­cil to set aside “po­lit­i­cal dis­agree­ments” to fo­cus on suf­fer­ing civil­ians.

Zeid Ra’ad al-Hus­sein de­liv­ered the stark re­marks in an ad­dress by video­con­fer­ence to the 47-mem­ber U.N.-backed rights body on Fri­day as it opened a spe­cial ses­sion on Aleppo called by Bri­tain and oth­ers over the crisis in the city.

Zeid, a Jor­da­nian prince, said rights vi­o­la­tions and abuses in Syria, in rebel-held east­ern Aleppo and be­yond “con­sti­tute crimes of his­toric pro­por­tions.” He said the “col­lec­tive fail­ure of the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity to pro­tect civil­ians and halt this blood­shed should haunt ev­ery one of us.”

The coun­cil was ex­pected to vote later in the day on a res­o­lu­tion that would call for in­creased mon­i­tor­ing of crimes in Aleppo.

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