Clashes erupt as 'humanitarian pause' goes into effect in Aleppo
Fighters from the Free Syrian Army fight against the Islamic State (IS) group jihadists on the outskirts of the northern Syrian town of Dabiq, on October 15, 2016. Photograph: (AFP)
A "humanitarian pause", 'backed' by Russia, went into effect today morning in eastern Aleppo, the Syria military was quoted as saying by Reuters.
The ceasefire was to allow people to leave besieged eastern Aleppo, a move that the rebels have said was part of a psychological campaign to get them to surrender, Reuters reported.
However, as the army announced it was opening eight corridors to provide safe passage for those leaving, the unilateral ceasefire suffered an "early blow" when clashes broke out at one of them, an AFP correspondent said.
Artillery exchanges were reported around the crossing point on the front line in the city centre, the AFP photographer said. The state SANA news agency blamed "terrorist groups".
Around 250,000 civilians are trapped in the rebel-held east of the city under near-continuous siege since mid-July amid devastating bombardment by Russian and Syrian government aircraft, AFP reported.
Russia has said the pause in a Syrian army offensive launched on September 22 will continue until at least 1600 GMT and could be extended. The Syrian army has said it will last three days.
Rights group Amnesty International said that the UN General Assembly (UNGA) "must step in to fill the void left by the Security Council members’ catastrophic failure to end relentless attacks targeting the civilian population in eastern Aleppo city."
Syrian and Russian warplanes already halted strikes on rebel districts from 0700 GMT on Tuesday.
Planned truce enough to rescue injured: UN
The pause in the fighting will be long enough to safely evacuate 200 wounded from the devastated east of the Syrian city, UN envoy Staffan de Mistura was quoted as saying by AFP.
"It is enough (time), if we work quickly, for a medical evacuation" of 200 injured people who need urgent medical attention, de Mistura said in an interview with Swiss RTS television.
He didn't say whether the pause in fighting would be sufficient to bring in humanitarian aid to the tens of thousands of people trapped in the city.
Meanwhile, the UN General Assembly is set to address the Aleppo violence after the Security Council failed to adopt a resolution demanding an end to the bombing of the besieged Syrian city, officials said.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and de Mistura will address a special informal session of the assembly at the initiative of Canada and 69 other countries over the Russian and Syrian government shelling of the northern city.
However, rights group Amnesty International said that the UN General Assembly (UNGA) "must step in to fill the void left by the Security Council members’ catastrophic failure to end relentless attacks targeting the civilian population in eastern Aleppo city."
“The world’s inaction in the face of the continuing carnage and blatant violations in Aleppo city must end. The UN General Assembly must show it can act where the Security Council has so catastrophically failed – the credibility of the UN is at stake,” said Lynn Maalouf, deputy director for research at Amnesty International’s Beirut regional office, ahead of a UNGA meeting later today.
“The scale of the bloodshed and destruction wrought on eastern Aleppo city over the past month is harrowing. Syrian government forces, with the support of Russia, have launched relentless attacks that have flagrantly disregarded fundamental rules of international humanitarian law."
(WION with inputs from AFP)