Since September 22, when Syria’s government announced an offensive to reclaim eastern Aleppo from anti-government rebels, up to 500 people have been killed by bombardment and a further 82 people caught by gunfire in ground clashes. 2,000 people have since been wounded and hospitals are under high pressure.
On Tuesday, Russia announced an eight-hour ceasefire set for Thursday. Designated a ‘humanitarian pause,’ the unilateral decision was intended to last four days, however, airstrikes and heavy artillery shelling on Saturday broke the pause three days in, targeting buildings positioned on a key anti-government front.
This ceasefire might have been the first opportunity for the United Nations to provide aid to East Aleppo since early July, however, the lack of security denied aid workers the opportunity to proceed. The UN asked Moscow to prolong the ceasefire until Monday evening, but Russia has failed to provide a response. The UN has also suggested both sides comply with a 48-hour ceasefire each week to provide humanitarian workers better access to the city, however, this has not yet been fulfilled. Rebel groups did not recognize the ceasefire. Despite this, the ceasefire has been hailed ‘a positive step.’
UN spokesperson, Ingy Sedky said that no one had evacuated during the ceasefire because conditions were too dangerous. It was also reported that civilians choosing to escape via designated ‘safe corridors’ were deterred because of continued shelling.
Russia has accused rebels of preventing civilians from leaving.
“The terrorists are using the ceasefire in their interests,” Sergei Rudskoi, senior Russian military official, stated.
Russia’s involvement in the Aleppo crisis has been condemned internationally. Although not explicitly stated, it is believed that the powerful nation’s strong alliance with Syria since the 1970’s has been the reason assisting the Assad government. Russia’s stated intention in assisting Assad is to expel anti-government rebels whom Russia identifies as ‘terrorists.’ However, experts questioning Russia’s involvement suggest that intervention in Syria is an underhanded means of showing off military power. Since the uprising in 2011 and the ensuing civil war, Russia has backed Assad steadfastly, and have been proven to act too strongly to justify interest in natural resources or geopolitical strategy alone.
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