Clashes, ar­tillery fire hit Aleppo af­ter truce ex­pires

The Myanmar Times - - World -

HEAVY clashes erupted be­tween regime and rebel forces in Syria’s di­vided city of Aleppo af­ter a uni­lat­eral cease­fire an­nounced by govern­ment ally Rus­sia ex­pired.

Moscow had ex­tended the uni­lat­eral “hu­man­i­tar­ian pause” into a third day un­til Oc­to­ber 22, but an­nounced no fur­ther re­newal of the truce de­spite a UN re­quest for longer to evac­u­ate wounded civil­ians.

The Syr­ian Ob­ser­va­tory for Hu­man Rights re­ported fierce fight­ing in sev­eral ar­eas along the front line di­vid­ing the city, with three peo­ple wounded by shelling of the rebel-held Sala­hed­din and Al-Mash­had dis­tricts.

The first air strikes since the end of the truce hit the op­po­si­tion-con­trolled dis­trict of Sheikh Saeed where there was also heavy fight­ing, the mon­i­tor said.

Nei­ther res­i­dents nor rebels of op­po­si­tion-held dis­tricts heeded calls from Syria’s army and Moscow to leave dur­ing the cease­fire, af­ter weeks of dev­as­tat­ing bom­bard­ment and a three-month govern­ment siege.

The pause be­gan on Oc­to­ber 20, and came af­ter Moscow an­nounced a tem­po­rary halt to the Syr­ian army’s cam­paign to re­cap­ture the city.

The army opened eight cor­ri­dors for evac­u­a­tions, but just a hand­ful of peo­ple crossed through a sin­gle pas­sage, with the oth­ers re­main­ing de­serted.

Syria and Rus­sian au­thor­i­ties have ac­cused rebels in the east of pre­vent­ing civil­ians from leav­ing and us­ing them as “hu­man shields”.

More than 2000 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.

The United Na­tions had hoped to use the cease­fire to evac­u­ate wounded peo­ple, and pos­si­bly de­liver aid. But the UN said the req­ui­site se­cu­rity guar­an­tees had not been re­ceived.

“You have var­i­ous par­ties to the con­flict and those with in­flu­ence and they all have to be on the same page on this and they are not,” said David Swan­son, a spokesper­son for the UN hu­man­i­tar­ian of­fice.

The UN had drawn up a four-day plan that was to start with two days of med­i­cal evac­u­a­tions to west Aleppo, rebel-held Idlib prov­ince, and Turkey, and con­tinue with more evac­u­a­tions as well as aid de­liv­er­ies.

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.

The UN had asked Moscow to con­sider ex­tend­ing the pause un­til this evening, but there was no word of any ex­ten­sion as the dead­line passed.

Photo: AFP

Demon­stra­tors hold plac­ards dur­ing a protest out­side Down­ing Street in cen­tral Lon­don on Oc­to­ber 22, call­ing on the Bri­tish govern­ment to take ac­tion to pro­tect the chil­dren of the Syr­ian city of Aleppo.

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