Humanitarian aid yet to reach Aleppo

Humanitarian aid yet to reach Aleppo
3 min read
16 September, 2016
Russia's claim of Syrian troops' withdrawal from the crucial Castello Road into Aleppo has been disputed by rebel groups.
Aid convoys waiting to travel to Aleppo are currently stuck at the Syrian-Turkish border [Getty]
Russia said late on Thursday that the Syrian army had begun to withdraw from the Castello Road into Aleppo, a key condition for pushing ahead with the delivery of international aid for the city under siege.

Rebel fighters, however, said the road - the only main thoroughfare into rebel-held East Aleppo and a major frontline during the war - was still in the hands of regime troops.

"The Syrian army... began the staged withdrawal of vehicles and personnel from the Castello Road to ensure the unimpeded delivery of aid to eastern Aleppo," said Vladimir Savchenko in comments broadcast on Russian state television.

Savchenko, head of the Russian Reconciliation Centre in Syria, said Russian troops were preparing the way for a convoy of aid vehicles which has been stranded on the Syrian-Turkish border for days.

However, speaking to Reuters, a spokesman for the Aleppo-based rebel group Fastaqim claimed that the Syrian army had not withdrawn from the area.

Basic resources in rebel-held East Aleppo are beginning to run low according to The New Arab's correspondent in the city.

"People are running out of fuel and there are scarce options in the market to buy. Every day it's the same, people think that aid convoys are going to just to enter and bring relief," reported Zouhir al-Shimale.

Peacekeeping efforts are stretched as the Syrian government and opposition groups accused one another of violating the ceasefire agreement.

Syrian military sources claim rebel violations of the ceasefire had taken place in areas of Damascus, Aleppo, Hama, Homs, and Latakia, with rebels claiming Syrian army jets had conducted airstrikes in Hama and Idlib, and deployed artillery near Damascus.

Read more: [In-depth] Syrian rebel groups reject ceasefire with regime

Attacks from both sides were reported by the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a UK-based monitoring group, which said two civilians had been killed in government-controlled areas in Aleppo and south-western Syria.

Elsewhere, the monitoring group said that airstrikes on a school in territory held by the Islamic State group - which is not included in the ceasefire agreement - claimed 23 lives, including those of nine children, in the town of Mayadin near Deir az-Zour.

But despite breaches of the truce, a US State Department spokesman said on Wednesday that "by and large" the deal was holding.

On Thursday Staffan de Mistura, the UN special envoy on Syria, accused the Syrian government of breaking pledges made in the US-Russia ceasefire agreement on the distribution of potentially life-saving aid in the war-torn country, calling for Damascus to cooperate "immediately".

In particular, De Mistura said the Syrian government had failed to provide "facilitation letters" required to ensure the safe-passage of aid convoys inside Syria.

In response, a Russian Defence Ministry statement accused the United States of "rhetorical fog" over its commitment to upholding the ceasefire agreement, claiming that Syrian opposition movements "controlled by the US" had violated its terms.

Approximately 300,000 people are believed to be living in rebel-held East Aleppo, with over one million based in the government-controlled western half of the city. The aid convoys, currently waiting to enter the city is carrying enough food for 80,000 people for a month, the UN has said.

France, which supports the opposition against the rule of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, this week became the first US ally to publically query the terms of Washington's ceasefire with Russia, urging the Obama administration to reveal details of the agreement, adding that without aid for Aleppo, any deal would quickly lose credibility.

(Agencies contributed to this report)