A ceasefire between rebels and the Syrian government in the city of Aleppo collapsed yesterday as fighter jets resumed deadly air raids over the opposition’s densely crowded enclave in the city.
The attacks threatened to thwart plans to evacuate rebels and tens of thousands of civilians out of harm’s way in what would seal the opposition’s surrender of the city.
The evacuation was supposed to begin at dawn but shelling resumed in the morning and buses that were to be used in the pull-out of rebels and civilians returned to their depots empty.
Activists and fighters trapped in the opposition’s last sliver of territory in Aleppo said pro-government forces had struck their district with dozens of rockets since mid-morning. They said aircraft resumed bombing shortly after noon. Some shells fell near and around the one remaining hospital in the one-square mile enclave.
It was nearly impossible for the rescuers to account for the dead because of the continued bombings, they said. It was not clear whether the planes were Syrian or Russian.
Syrian president Bashar al-Assad, in an interview with Russia Today, said the cease-fire was designed stop his government’s advance in the city and “keep the terrorists and save them.” He said western countries pressured Russia for the cease-fire when rebels appeared to be on the verge of losing the territory they have held since 2012.
A legal adviser to the rebels accused Iran of foiling the Russia- and Turkey-brokered deal by imposing new conditions on the rebels.
Along with Russia, Iran backs Assad’s government. Turkey backs some of the rebel groups fighting to topple Assad.
The Syrian government withdrew its green buses from the evacuation point at the edge of the city’s opposition enclave. The Lebanese al-Manar TV channel, the media arm of the Lebanese militant Shiite group Hezbollah fighting alongside Assad’s forces, broadcast footage of the buses leaving the evacuation point empty and said government forces had resumed fighting with rebels in the city.
The remaining doctors in the square mile of eastern Aleppo under attack were “terrified”, Médecins Sans Frontières said. Teresa Sancristoval, the head of the emergency unit for the city, said the doctors who are regularly in touch with her group “feel abandoned to their fate and with no way out”.
Doctors have already been overwhelmed, and only one health facility remains operational. Rescuers say bodies and wounded were being left on the streets.
“People are losing any kind of hope,” she said.
Human Rights Watch said the forces battling for control of the city are plunging its residents into “hell”.
The group urged forces loyal to the Syrian government in particular to halt “unlawful” attacks on civilians and allow for their safe evacuation
Lama Fakih of Human Rights Watch said civilians “who had a glimmer of hope that the attacks would stop and that aid would finally reach them are instead trapped in a new brutal air and ground attack”.