The unilateral ceasefire in Aleppo, declared by the Russians and Assad regime, was rejected by rebels who say that it is a trap and that they are preparing a counter-offensive to break the blockade.
The Assad regime said on Thursday a unilateral ceasefire backed by Russia had come into force to allow people to leave besieged eastern Aleppo.
State media earlier said the army had opened exit corridors in two designated areas in the Bustan al-Qasr quarter and near the Castello road in northern Aleppo city. Waiting buses were shown on state television.
Rebels say the goal of Moscow and Assad is to empty rebel-held areas of civilians so they can take over the whole city.
“They talk about humanitarian corridors, but why are they not allowing food into besieged eastern Aleppo to alleviate our suffering? We only need the Russian bombers to stop killing our children. We don’t want to leave,” said Ammar al Qaran, a resident in Sakhour district.
The rebels, however, said they were preparing a large-scale offensive to break the siege of Aleppo.
“The coming battle is not going to be like others. We are waiting for the signal of the start of a decisive battle which will surprise the regime and its militias,” Abu Obeida al-Ansari, a commander from Jabhat Fateh al-Sham, formerly known as al-Nusra Front, said in a statement on social media.
“All corridors are empty. People of Aleppo will never leave homes. If Russians use all internationally-banned bombs and warplanes, we will never leave,” one of the locals said.
“If Russian and Assad forces are fearing for the civilians, why have they laid siege on them when they cut the road of al-Castello?” a woman from the besieged Aleppo wondered.
Assad regime, backed by Russia, said on September 22 it was starting a new wide offensive to recapture the rebel-held parts of Aleppo after a week-long ceasefire was declared officially over on 19 September.
Since 19 September, more than 800 civilians were killed and more than 2000 injured in rebel-held areas of Aleppo province, including the besieged eastern part of the city, Civil defense workers said.
The Assad regime froces said on Wednesday they would observe the temporary ceasefire over three days from morning to sunset to allow trapped civilians to escape and said it had pulled back to enable rebel fighters to leave the city via two designated corridors.
“We guarantee a safe exit. Seize the opportunity and save your families,” an army loudspeaker blared near an exit corridor, on live footage shown on the pro-Syrian government Lebanese news channel Mayadeen.
“An appeal to our people … we will extend every help from shelters to hot dishes and facilities that offer you medical treatment,” said the army loudspeaker.
To the rebels, the army broadcaster said: “Drop your weapons, this is your last chance.”
Residents reported no raids on residential areas on Thursday morning though rebel sources said planes believed to be Russian jets flying at high altitude continued to pound targets in towns and villages in Aleppo’s western countryside and in rebel-held Idlib province in northwest Syria.
Since Russia intervened in the war a year ago, the government’s side has gained the upper hand on numerous fronts, including Aleppo, where the opposition-held sector has been completely encircled for weeks.
The Assad regime forces, backed by Russian air power, Iranian ground forces and Shi’ite militia fighters from Iran, Iraq, and Lebanon, has been tightening its grip on rebel-held districts of Aleppo this year, and this summer achieved a long-held goal of fully encircling the area.
Recovering full control of the rebels’ last significant urban area would be the most important victory of the war so far for Assad, strengthening his control over Syria’s most populous and strategically important regions.