ALEPPO, Syria: A 10-hour Russian-declared ceasefire for opposition-held areas of Syria’s second city Aleppo began on Friday morning with the goal of encouraging civilians and surrendering rebels to leave.
The so-called “humanitarian pause” is the second time Russia and its regime ally have declared passages open for evacuations.
But expectations were low that either civilians or rebels would leave through the eight passages Moscow said were open, with two reserved for fighters.
A similar three-day unilateral ceasefire last month ended with only a handful of people leaving.
Civilians inside besieged east Aleppo expressed fear of crossing into government-held territory, though Moscow and Damascus accused rebels of preventing people who wanted to leave from evacuating.
The UN also failed during the last ceasefire to evacuate injured people, saying it could not obtain security guarantees in time.
Rebel forces have rejected the Russian initiative, describing it as an attempt to alleviate international pressure.
“This announcement is worthless… We don’t trust the Russians or any of their cheap initiatives,” said Yasser al-Youssef, from the politburo of the Nureddin al-Zinki rebel brigade in Aleppo.
More than 250,000 people remain in east Aleppo, which has been besieged by government forces since July.
In September, Syria’s army, backed by Russian forces, launched an operation to recapture the east, killing hundreds of people and destroying infrastructure, including hospitals.
And last week, rebel forces began a bid to break the siege on eastern Aleppo.
After several days of quiet, opposition fighters launched what they described as the “second phase” of that operation on Thursday, sparking heavy clashes with government forces on several fronts on the western outskirts of the city.
But an AFP correspondent in eastern Aleppo said it was quiet on Friday morning, with no sounds of fighting heard and no air strikes. AFP