The humanitarian aid convoys that were sent to Syria’s besieged Aleppo city have been stuck for yet another day, as Assad regime airstrikes and the fighting outside Damascus raised concerns about whether a fragile ceasefire could hold.
Under the ceasefire agreement, made by US and Russia who back opposing sides in the five-year-old war, a nationwide truce from sundown on Monday was promised,as well as improved access for humanitarian aid and joint military targeting of hardline Islamist groups.
Three more died and 13 were injured in air strikes in rebel-held Idlib province on Friday, the Observatory said. A number of shells were also fired by rebels into two besieged Shi’ite villages.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the violence stemmed from clashes between rebels and Assad regime forces in the Jobar district on Damascus’s eastern outskirts.
Hours-long fighting and shelling erupted in neighborhoods on the edges of Damascus on Friday, with activists and residents calling the clashes the heaviest in the Syrian capital for weeks.
The fighting on Friday was described as some of the most serious since the truce came into effect on Monday, with both the regime and rebels accusing each other of breaching the US-Russia brokered agreement.
State media said rebels violated the ceasefire by shelling regime-held areas in the eastern Damascus neighborhood of Qaboun, wounding three people.
According to the Observatory, the fighting between regime troops and rebels was concentrated in the neighbourhood of Jobar, next to Qaboun, where rebels have had a presence for years.
Mazen al-Shami, an opposition activist near Damascus, said regime forces tried to storm Jobar but were repelled by opposition fighters.
“This is one of the most serious violations of the ceasefire,” al-Shami told the Associated Press news agency via Skype.
Humanitarian aids are still blocked
Aid for Aleppo, however, has been stuck on the Turkish border for five days now, with the UN calling on the Assad regime forces to “immediately” allow life-saving supplies into the city’s rebel-held areas, where about 300,000 people are living under siege.
Washington told Moscow on Friday that potential military cooperation in Syria would not happen unless it pressured the Assad reigme to allow aid into besieged areas.
the strategic Castello Road leading into rebel-held eastern Aleppo was meant to be demilitarised for aid to enter.
The United Nations had hoped that 40 lorries of food would be delivered there as part of the truce.
The UN has said it is “incredibly frustrated” over not being able to obtain the necessary permits from the Assad regime to let aid into Syria.
Moscow said the Syrian army had begun to withdraw from Castello Road on Friday but was forced to return after its forces came under attack by rebels using small arms fire.
Rebel groups in Aleppo said they had seen no such withdrawal from the regime’s side, and would not pull back from their own positions around the road until it did so.
Assad regime said on Saturday it was doing everything necessary for the arrival of aid to those in need in all parts of the country, rebutting comments by top United Nations officials that Damascus was hindering access.
It added that it had done all that was required of it to facilitate the arrival of aid to eastern Aleppo but that it would not provide guarantees regarding the safety of convoys while rebels still fired upon the road to the city.
However, the UN has pointed the finger at the regime for holding up aid, saying it asked for permission to reach all besieged areas and was denied letters guaranteeing access.
“In order to actually initiate the actual movement of these convoys we need the facilitation letters. They have not come,” U.N. humanitarian affairs spokesman Jens Laerke said in Geneva. “It’s highly frustrating.”
The Syrian crisis began as a peaceful demonstration against the injustice in Syria. Assad regime used to fire power and violence against the civilians and led to armed resistance. 450.000 Syrians lost their lives in the past five years according to UN estimates, and more than 12 million have lost their homes.