Aleppo: People in Syria’s east Aleppo city are bracing for a full-scale Russian aerial assault after Moscow’s deadline for rebels and civilians to surrender expired on Friday.
The Kremlin gave residents of east Aleppo a “last chance” to come out of the besieged enclave by 7.00 p.m. but as the sun set over the battered city there was no sign of people taking up the offer, the Telegraph reported.
Those inside said they now expected Russia and the Syrian regime to resume a heavy bombardment of east Aleppo, where around 275,000 civilians and 8,000 fighters are surrounded by government forces and running out of food and medicine.
“The Russian warplanes are going to make it hell for us again,” Abdulkafi al-Hamdo, a teacher by profession, told the Telegraph. “They will say they offered to let us leave and because we didn’t it means we are all terrorists and deserve to be killed.”
Russian and Syrian jets have refrained from striking east Aleppo for the last two weeks and on Friday opened several humanitarian corridors for 10 hours to allow rebel fighters and civilians to come out of the area.
Green government buses waited at the end of the passages to pick up anyone who did venture out.
But by nightfall no one appeared to have used any of the eight corridors and the two sides gave different explanations for why civilians were staying inside the besieged city.
The Syrian regime said residents were being stopped from leaving by rebel fighters and jihadists who wanted them as “human shields” to deter an assault. Rebels appeared to fire rockets at one of the corridors in what may have been an effort to discourage people from going out.
Russia’s only aircraft carrier, the Admiral Kuznetsov, arrived off the Syrian coast this week after a voyage through the English channel and the Mediterranean and its jets are expected to join in the bombardment.
The depleted Syrian army is relying heavily on Russian airpower and thousands of fighters from Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan and the Lebanese Shia militia Hizbollah.