Little response from residents in Aleppo from evacuation corridor

Aleppo, Syria.

The Syrian government has had little response to a new corridor opened for rebels and civilians who want to leave besieged eastern neighbourhoods of Aleppo.

The move is part of a Russia-announced pause in the fighting in the ravaged city, but the UN humanitarian agency said medical evacuations have been impossible so far because of a lack of security.

By noon on today, no evacuations had been seen along the route.

Residents in eastern Aleppo have said many will not leave as there are no guarantees that the evacuees will not be arrested by government forces, and Russia said fighters from the Al-Nusra militant group are refusing to leave.

Even as the corridor opened along Aleppo’s main artery to the north, Castello Road, intense clashes and shelling erupted in the Jobar neighbourhood in the capital of Damascus, activists and residents said.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said there were casualties among rebels and government forces.

The pan-Arab Al-Mayadeen TV aired live footage from Castello Road showing bulldozers that had opened the route.

Buses and ambulances were parked by the road waiting to take evacuees.

The pause in fighting was announced by Moscow to allow for the evacuation of civilians and fighters, as well as the wounded.

Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov said Moscow is prepared to continue the pause of bombing if rebels do not initiate attacks, but the fighters have rejected the offer, saying it is not serious.

Before the pause, Aleppo’s besieged districts were subjected to relentless Syrian and Russian air strikes for weeks.

UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon told an emergency meeting of the UN General Assembly that nearly 500 people have been killed and almost 2,000 injured since the Syrian government launched its offensive in eastern Aleppo on September 23.

On Thursday, government helicopters dropped leaflets over eastern Aleppo, saying that this is “the road to the nation”.

“We are ready for help. Take the opportunity,” said the leaflets, which carried an image of a green bus or a dead rebel fighter which had the words “this could be the end” underneath.

The collapse of the last truce was followed by some of the worst bombing of Aleppo in years.

In Geneva, the UN human rights chief said Aleppo is “a slaughterhouse” and urged the Human Rights Council to set aside “political disagreements” to focus on suffering civilians.

Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein delivered the stark remarks in an address by video-conference to the 47-member UN-backed rights body as it opened a special session on Aleppo called by Britain.

Mr Zeid, a Jordanian prince, said rights violations and abuses in Syria “constitute crimes of historic proportions”. He said the “collective failure of the international community to protect civilians and halt this bloodshed should haunt every one of us”.

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