Aid convoys for Aleppo delayed amid rising violence
BEIRUT >> Trucks carrying humanitarian aid to Syria’s besieged rebel-held part of the city of Aleppo were held up for yet another day as heavy fighting broke out Friday on the edges of Damascus between government forces and insurgents.
The clashes were some of the most serious since a U.S.-Russia-brokered ceasefire went into effect this week. The fighting and mutual accusations of violations sparked concern that the fragile cease-fire, which brought some relief to millions of people across the war-ravaged country, may be starting to fray.
In a further sign of tensions picking up, the Obama administration warned Russia that potential military cooperation in Syria will not happen unless humanitarian aid begins to flow into Aleppo and other besieged communities.
The Russian military had said that the Syrian army withdrew its armor, artillery and other weapons from a key highway near Aleppo early Thursday, signaling the possible arrival of aid convoys after several days of delay. Syrian state TV said bulldozers began clearing the road on the northwestern edge of Aleppo that leads into besieged rebel-held neighborhoods to make way for the convoys.
But a Russian official, Lt. Gen. Vladimir Savchenko, said the Syrian army Friday moved its heavy weapons back to Castello Road after the opposition failed to withdraw their arms in sync in line with the truce deal.
In a video call from Castello Road, Russian Col. Sergei Kapitsyn said the rebels fired on government positions overnight, wounding two Syrian soldiers and prompting the Syrian army to move their weapons back to the road to prevent the rebels from advancing.
The Russian military said it has complained to the U.S. at a joint working group in Geneva about the opposition’s failure to pull back in sync with the Syrian army, but received no immediate response. The Russian military also claimed that the Syrian opposition has used the truce to regroup and strengthen its forces.