Seven days without airstrikes in Aleppo, peace set to continue

  • 26/10/2016
Aleppo (File/Reuters)
Aleppo (File/Reuters)

After seven days without airstrikes, Russia and Syria have agreed to extend an agreement not to bomb the Syrian city of Aleppo.

The Russian Defence Ministry says Russian and Syrian military planes have not launched any air strikes on Aleppo in the last seven days, contradicting a monitor who says frontline areas in the city have been bombed since Saturday.

Major-General Igor Konashenkov said in a statement that Russian and Syrian planes had not even approached let alone bombed the devastated city since Moscow said it was suspending air strikes last Tuesday ahead of a pause in hostilities.

"Flights over Aleppo by the Russian and Syrian air forces have been completely halted for the last seven days," said Mr Konashenkov.

The Russian Defence Ministry has also said it will extend a moratorium on air strikes on the Syrian city of Aleppo, but did not specify for how long.

"The moratorium on air strikes by the Russian and Syrian air forces around [Aleppo] will be extended," the ministry said in the statement, saying it meant Russian and Syrian planes would continue to stay out of a 10 kilometre zone around Aleppo.

It said it was also ready to organise more ceasefires on the ground in Aleppo to allow wounded civilians to be evacuated.

"We are ready to establish [further] humanitarian pauses ... but only if we have reliable information about the readiness to evacuate the sick, injured and civilian population," the defence ministry said.

Six humanitarian corridors in eastern Aleppo, which were opened as part of the pause in hostilities to allow civilians to flee, were still operating, said Mr Konashenkov.

He said 48 women and children had left the city late on Monday escorted by Russian military officers.

Aleppo was Syria's most populous city before the war, but is now divided into government and rebel-held areas. Intense bombardment has reduced the rebel-held east of the city to ruins.

Russia has repeatedly complained that its efforts to help civilians evacuate have been thwarted by militants who it says have opened fire on anyone wanting to leave.

Rebels did not accept the ceasefire, which they say does nothing to alleviate the situation of those who choose to remain in eastern Aleppo, and believe it is part of a government policy to purge cities of political opponents.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says there have been no deaths from air strikes inside residential eastern Aleppo since the ceasefire officially began last Thursday.

But it said air strikes had hit frontline areas of clashes in the city since the lull ended on Saturday, for example in southwest Aleppo city.

Air strikes continued on Tuesday outside the city to its west and north, the observatory said.