Syria army urges residents to quit Aleppo as ceasefire begins

Gunfire and artillery exchanges erupted around a crossing point near the rebel-controlled Bustan al-Qasr district shortly after the pause began.

Syria army urges residents to quit Aleppo as ceasefire begins

World Bulletin / News Desk

A "humanitarian pause" began Thursday in the Syrian army's Russian-backed assault on rebel-held areas of Aleppo but clashes continued and there were no signs residents were heeding calls to leave.

The unilateral ceasefire took effect at 8:00 am 0500 GMT) and was to last at least 11 hours, with the aim of allowing civilians and fighters to evacuate the city's opposition-controlled east.

State news agency SANA said "terrorist groups" had targeted the area around the corridor with rocket, machinegun and sniper fire "in an attempt to hinder the humanitarian pause".

Russia has said the pause will continue until at least 1600 GMT and could be extended.

The Syrian army has said it will last three days and on Thursday soldiers were calling through loudspeakers for residents to "seize the chance" to evacuate. 

Russia announced the ceasefire earlier this week to allow civilians and rebels to quit the east of Aleppo, the divided northern city that has been devastated by Syria's five-year civil war.

Moscow is backing President Bashar al-Assad's regime in the conflict and has faced increasing international pressure over the destruction and civilian deaths caused by Russian and Syrian air strikes.

Russia has described the pause as a "goodwill gesture" but rebel groups have said they will not abandon their posts and, with Aleppo encircled by pro-government forces, many civilians fear falling into the hands of the regime.

Western powers have also expressed scepticism. European Union leaders gathered for a summit in Brussels on Thursday were to strongly condemn Syria and Russia over Aleppo and were weighing sanctions.

More than 250,000 civilians have been trapped in the rebel-held east of the city under near-continuous siege since mid-July.

Last Mod: 20 Ekim 2016, 14:03
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