Russian-declared cease-fire in Aleppo falls apart

ALEPPO, Syria, A Russian-backed 10-hour cease-fire in the Syrian city of Aleppo fell apart Friday when mortar rounds struck exit passageways intended to allow rebels and residents to flee the war-torn area.

Syrians look at the burning and damaged trucks that were carrying aid after airstrikes destroyed much of the convoy near Aleppo in September. A Russian-backed 10-hour ceasefire in the Syrian city of Aleppo fell apart Friday when mortar rounds struck exit passageways. File Photo by Omar Haj Kadour/UPI | License Photo

A total of eight exits — two for rebels and six for civilians –were available to those fleeing the city, but multiple news reports said the passageways were blocked or besieged with gunfire. RT reported two Russian soldiers were injured when a passageway was shelled by militants. Syrian state media reported seven mortar shells targeting the al-Castello corridor halted residents trying to escape.

The London-based New Arab reported five civilians, including three children, were killed in suspected Russian airstrikes. There has been no official confirmation of the cease-fire being broken, instead only independent media reports.

At the same time, the United Nations said it would not use the cease-fire to deliver humanitarian aid because there were no security assurances.

Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday coordinated with the Syrian government to order the so-called humanitarian pause to allow clear passage from the city. The cease-fire began at 9 a.m. and was slated to end by 7 p.m.

Amnesty International said increased Russian support to Syria may increase risks once the cease-fire is officially finished. Reports of Russian warships making their way to the Syrian coast indicate Syrian and Russian forces are preparing a final bloody assault to seize control of the city.

“Even in times of wars, there are fundamental rules that all parties must obey. Civilians must never be deliberately targeted. And armed forces must never indiscriminately bombard populated areas. Syrian government forces, with Russian support, have systematically violated international humanitarian law in eastern Aleppo and throughout Syria, unlawfully killing tens of thousands of civilians. And armed opposition groups have indiscriminately bombarded civilian areas in in western Aleppo and elsewhere,” said Samah Hadid, deputy director for Campaigns at Amnesty International’s Beirut regional office.

By Amy R. Connolly