Heavy airstrikes and clashes have been reported in the besieged rebel-held parts of Aleppo after a three-day ceasefire ended on Saturday, renewing the daily suffer that the city lived in for weeks.
The Assad regime said on October 20 that a unilateral ceasefire backed by Russia had come into force to allow people to leave besieged eastern Aleppo, and it will be renewed and preserved for four days.
Moscow had extended the unilateral “humanitarian pause” into a third day until 1600 GMT Saturday, but announced no further renewal of the truce despite a UN request for longer to evacuate wounded civilians.
The first Syrian or Russian air strikes on Aleppo since Russia began the pause in hostilities on Thursday started right away after the truce’s end and hit a key frontline in the city’s southwest.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said fighting and air strikes took place on Saturday night.
The Observatory said air strikes hit a key front line in the south-west of the city on Saturday, with clashes between rebel fighters and government troops intensifying in rebel-held eastern districts of Aleppo.
Ground clashes and shelling, which had continued throughout the day on frontlines, intensified.
There have been night-time clashes as each day of the ceasefire has ended, but Saturday saw much fiercer fighting plus the first air strikes.
Ismail al-Abdullah, a volunteer with the White Helmets civil defense group, said he had witnessed bombings on the frontline, as well as snipers, in the hours since the ceasefire ended.
“Members of popular civil committees from regime districts entered the eastern neighborhoods to try to evacuate the injured but failed,” SOHR head Rami Abdel Rahman said.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Saturday Russia remains committed to removing what it calls terrorist organizations from Syria and preventing the disintegration of the country.
“We need to liberate and do everything possible to prevent the division of the country,” Peskov said in a television interview, adding that he did not see an end to the Syria conflict in the foreseeable future.
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.
No evacuation or aids delivery during the truce
No civilians were evacuated during the truce, Ingy Sedky, spokeswoman for the International Committee of the Red Cross in Syria, said, adding that evacuations were impossible due to the poor security situation in the city.
The Syrian army and Russia had called on residents and rebels in eastern Aleppo to leave through designated corridors and depart for other rebel-held districts under a promise of safe travel, but very few rebels or civilians appeared to have left.
Syrian state media and Russian authorities have accused rebels in the east of preventing civilians from leaving and using them as “human shields”.
“Nobody has left through the corridors. The small number of people which who tried to leave were faced with shelling around the (corridor area) and could not leave,” said Zakaria Malahifji, a rebel official with the Fastaqim group, which is present in the city.
The UN had hoped to use the ceasefire to evacuate seriously wounded people, and possibly deliver aid. But a UN official said the requisite security guarantees had not been received.
“You have various parties to the conflict and those with influence. They all have to be on the same page on this and they are not,” said David Swanson, a spokesman for the UN humanitarian office.
No aid has entered Aleppo since July 7 and food rations will run out by the end of the month, UN chief Ban Ki-moon warned on Thursday.
“The U.N. remains hopeful that parties will provide all necessary guarantees and is actively working to that end,” U.N. humanitarian spokesman Jens Laerke said. He said humanitarian workers were ready to proceed as soon as conditions allowed.
“The situation on the ground remains volatile as exchanges of fire and clashes continue. Just today bullets struck the hotel where the U.N. hub is based and critically injured one hotel staff,” Laerke said.
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.