Well, who could have predicted this?
Just hours after a cease-fire was set to go into affect in the besieged Syrian city of Aleppo, the fleeing rebels have accused the Russians and Iranians of breaking the deal and firing on those trying to evacuate a hellish 2km stretch of territory to which the rebels and civilians have been confined.
Earlier today, Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov said “Syrian rebels [are] leaving east Aleppo via safe corridors.”
As it turns out, those corridors may not be so “safe” after all. Here’s FT with more:
A deal to evacuate Syrians trapped inside a besieged rebel foothold in Aleppo looked at risk of collapse after shelling rocked the city on Wednesday, hours after a fragile truce took hold.
The rebels and Russia, which has intervened on the side of President Bashar al-Assad alongside the regional Shia power Iran, traded blame for the renewal of hostilities.
Rebels say that Iranian-backed Shia militias supporting Assad forces began to fire at them in an effort to foil the deal. Russia accused rebels of bombing an evacuation convoy being prepared to bus people out of the tiny 2km squared stretch of land where rebels and civilians are trapped under siege.
“We are being exposed to heavy shelling from planes and artillery,” said Mohammed Khandaqani, an opposition activist in Aleppo, who said there were four air strikes on the Ansari district of the city. “I can hear the voices of some people who are wounded but we can’t go outside.”
An untold number of civilians are still inside, and opposition activists said their hopes of escaping from a nightmarish campaign of night-and-day bombardment were already dimming.
“The shelling never stops again. Iran insisted on [the] elimination option as we expected,” said one activist inside the city, speaking to journalists and sharing a recording of the sound of heavy gunfire.
Russia said buses that were supposed to bring people out from the rebel-held Salahadin neighbourhood came under fire upon reaching the area.
“The Syrian army continued its operation for the liberation of the militant-controlled parts of eastern Aleppo,” a statement from the Russian defence ministry said.
It was unclear if the statement indicated that the deal was off.
Actually it seems pretty “clear” and no one – I repeat no one – should be surprised. Here’s a bit more from Reuters:
The planned evacuation of rebel districts of Aleppo stalled on Wednesday as air strikes and heavy shelling hit the city and Iran was said to have imposed new conditions on the deal.
Iran, one of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s main backers in the battle that has all but ended four years of rebel resistance in the city, wanted a simultaneous evacuation of wounded from two villages, Foua and Kefraya, that are besieged by rebel fighters, according to rebel and U.N. sources.
Rebel groups said that was just an excuse to hold up the evacuation from a shrunken insurgent enclave shattered by a powerful government offensive. A pro-opposition TV station said the operation could now be delayed until Thursday.
Nobody had left by dawn under the plan, according to a Reuters witness waiting at the departure point, where 20 buses stood with engines running but showed no sign of moving into rebel districts.
People in eastern Aleppo packed their bags and burned personal belongings, fearing looting by the Syrian army and its Iranian-backed militia allies.
I suppose this will be written off by the “alt. media” as more lies by their mainstream counterparts because surely none of this could be true. There’s absolutely no chance that The Kremlin, Iran-backed militiamen, and the Assad regime would seek to take advantage of a cease fire to inflict further suffering on insurgents, right?