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Aleppo aid deliveries yet to take place, despite ceasefire

ALEPPO, SYRIA - OCTOBER 17: Syrians clear debris to rescue people from a wreckage after war crafts belonging to the Russian army carried out an airstrike over opposition controlled residential areas in Aleppo, Syria on October 17, 2016. ( Ahmed al Ahmed - Anadolu Agency )
ALEPPO, SYRIA - OCTOBER 17: Syrians clear debris to rescue people from wreckages after war crafts belonging to the Russian army carried out an airstrike over opposition controlled residential areas in Aleppo( Ahmed al Ahmed - Anadolu Agency )

Calm prevailed across the divided Syrian city of Aleppo today, the third day of a unilateral ceasefire announced by Russia, but medical evacuations and aid deliveries have yet to take place, a war monitor said.

There have been no reported Syrian or Russian airstrikes on the eastern opposition-held side of Aleppo, Syria's most populous city before the war, since Russia began the pause in hostilities on Thursday, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) said.

But rebels have said they cannot 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 army and Russia have called on residents and rebels in besieged eastern Aleppo to leave the city through designated corridors and depart for other opposition-held districts under a promise of safe travel, but very few rebels or civilians appear to have left.

"Nobody has left through the corridors. The small number of people…who tried to leave were faced with shelling around the [corridor area] and could not leave," Zakaria Malahifji, a rebel official present in the city, told Reuters. Malahifji said shelling and clashes continued at normal levels in parts of the city.

Syrian state media says the opposition is preventing civilians from leaving eastern Aleppo. Pro-government channels broadcast footage of ambulances and green buses parked at empty reception points in Assad regime-held Aleppo, said to be waiting for civilians and fighters from the city's east.

The United Nations had hoped that the ceasefires would allow medical evacuations from the city, but said a lack of security guarantees and facilitation were preventing aid workers taking advantage of the pause in bombing.

Sporadic clashes between armed rebel factions and the Russia and Iran-backed Assad regime have been reported during the period of calm along frontlines, with some shells falling on both the government-held western side of the city and the rebel-held east, SOHR said.

Aleppo has been a major battleground in the Syrian conflict, now in its sixth year. Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad, backed by the Russian military, Iranian military and an array of Shia militias, wants to take full control of the city.

Syrian and Russian forces say they are targeting fighters linked to Al-Qaeda from Jabhat Fateh Al-Sham, formerly known as the Al-Nusra Front, in eastern Aleppo. Meanwhile the opposition has accused the Assad regime and Moscow of indiscriminately targeting civilians and civilian infrastructure to take over rebel-held eastern Aleppo.

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