While the world fixates on Mosul, Russia's eight-hour ceasefire offers no hope of lifting Aleppo's despair

Promised break in bombing rings hollow for many amid last 24 hours of bloodshed and is ‘not enough’ to evacuate those in need of help, aid groups warn  

Click to follow
The Independent Online

Moscow has announced that Russian-backed Syrian air strikes on rebel-held east Aleppo will cease for eight hours on the same day opposition activists said bombing has already killed more than 30 people. 

The news will do little to assuage the grief of the Qabas family, who buried 14 family members, including eight children, at the local graveyard in al-Marjeh on Monday.

Harrowing video of eight small bodies wrapped in white sheets being carried by men and placed on the ground was released by rebel activists on Tuesday. At one point, a man pulls back the sheets to kiss the face of an infant about six weeks old.

The extended family, who lived in the same apartment block, were killed in the early hours of Monday, the Aleppo Media Centre said. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) collaborated the account of their deaths. 

No women were present in the video because it is traditional in Aleppo for women to visit graves after the burial, activists added.

Many rebel activists and civilians inside the siege barricades dismissed Russia's proposition for a new temporary ceasefire considering the fact that Russia vetoed international ceasefire action at the United Nations last week. 

Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu said in a televised address that the break in air operations on Tuesday from 10am until 4pm local time would allow rebels to make preparations to leave the besieged zone ahead of a temporary truce proposed by Russia for later in the week.

The move would also allow a “safe exit” and “humanitarian pause” to evacuate those in need of medical treatment to neighbouring rebel-held Idlib, he added, although rebels reported that at least two planes had targeted opposition-held countryside after the break in bombing was supposed to have started.

Video shows amazing rescue of child as shelling resumes in Aleppo, by admin

Sunday and Monday bought heavy civilian losses: SOHR said that at least 50 people, including 18 children, were killed in the 24 hours preceding the Russian announcement. 

Around 23 more died in a village outside Aleppo in a Russian strike, monitoring group the Local Coordination Committees said.

In West Aleppo, controlled by the government, Syrian state media reported rebel shelling had killed one woman and injured three more people in the last day. 

Medicins Sans Frontieres (MSF) said that the brief cessation of hostilities was not long enough to adequately address the needs of hundred of people who have been injured in the unprecedented bombing of recent weeks, asking Moscow and Damascus to consider implementing regular 48-hour-long ceasefires to allow aid into besieged districts. The UN echoed MSF's concerns, saying it could not carry out assistance without appropriate safety guarantees. 

A renewed onslaught on rebel neighbourhoods, encircled by regime forces, has killed around 500 people and decimated homes and medical infrastructure since a seven-day ceasefire collapsed in September. The strikes have been condemned by the international community as war crimes. Russia and Syria say they only target terrorists. 

russian-airstrikes-9.jpg
Jameel Mustafa Habboush, receives oxygen from civil defence volunteers, known as the white helmets, as they rescue him from under the rubble of a building following Russian air strikes on the rebel-held Fardous neighbourhood of the northern embattled Syrian city of Aleppo (Getty)

Many observers fear that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is seizing an opportunity to alternately bomb and starve east Aleppo into submission while the international community’s focus is diverted to northern Iraq, where a major operation to remove Isis militants from Mosul has begun which is expected to affect up to one million people.

Similar siege tactics have worked for Mr Assad previously in Syria’s six-year-long conflict. A government spokesperson said last week that the Syrian military is stepping up its military campaign in Aleppo partly because it is wary of the coming changes in American politics, seeing Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton as “hawkish” and Republican nominee Donald Trump as a “wildcard”. 

The US has provided logistic and military assistance to rebel groups the Syrian government views as terrorists since almost the beginning of the war in 2011. 

Eleven Syrian opposition-allied governments meeting in London this weekend to discuss the Syrian crisis said that military intervention against President Assad to curb the bloodshed is highly unlikely. 

Comments