Few takers for Russian 'humanitarian corridor' out of Aleppo

Few takers for Russian 'humanitarian corridor' out of Aleppo
Damascus-aligned forces have set up safe passages out of east Aleppo in accordance with a Russian plan - but there have been few takers among either civilians or gunmen.
3 min read
21 October, 2016
Leaflets have been dropped over east Aleppo calling on residents to leave [AFP]

Moscow has announced a 24-hour extension to a humanitarian "pause" in Aleppo, leaving it unclear when the initiative will end.

The cessation of violence came into effect in Aleppo on Thursday. Russian officials say the humanitarian window is intended to allow civilians and rebels safe passage out of east Aleppo. 

The Syrian government opened up a corridor for civilians and rebels to leave the besieged, rebel-held eastern districts of Aleppo late on Thursday, in preparation to carry out evacuations from the area.

The pro-regime Lebanese TV station Al-Mayadeen aired footage on Friday morning live from the Castello Road - the central artery from east Aleppo to the north - showing bulldozers opening up the thoroughfare and buses and ambulances parked on the side of the road ready to take evacuees.

The area has faced relentless bombardment by Syrian and Russian aircraft since a truce deal collapsed in September. Airstrikes have been accompanied by regime advances on the ground.

However, international actors and humanitarian groups have criticised the initiative, stating that it principally serves the Syrian regime's military interests. Rebel groups have also rejected it as a call for their surrender.

Eight corridors across the frontline have been set up to provide passage for the 250,000 civilians currently in east Aleppo. 

There appears, however, little sign civilians were heeding calls, blared on loudspeakers, for them to leave the city.

Both Syrian and Russian state-affiliated media outlets claimed that rebel groups had fired on safe passages set up in order to enable people to leave east Aleppo, while demonstrations against the Russian proposal and in solidarity with the opposition took place in some districts.

Protesters stated that Aleppo was their city, decrying what they said was enforced displacement and demanded that, instead of being forced to leave their homes, that the regime-aligned forces stopped bombing them.

With little support for Russia's proposal from either the international community or opposition groups many fear that, given ongoing failures to reach a diplomatic solution to end bloodshed, the ceasefire will merely serve as a temporary lull in hostilities in the city.

However, on Friday the UN said it aimed to carry out its first medical evacuations from east Aleppo if the "humanitarian pause" holds, also expressing hope that food aid could be delivered to the area.

No UN aid convoy has accessed east Aleppo since July 7.