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Russia proposes 'aid corridors' as regime advances in Aleppo

Watch now: Since Saturday 50,000 people have left East Aleppo according to one monitor [Getty]

Date of publication: 2 December, 2016

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Video: Amid large gains in the past week the Syrian regime now controls 40 percent of territory in Aleppo formerly held by rebel groups.

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Syria, Aleppo
Pro-regime forces continued to push into areas of rebel-held East Aleppo on Friday, after Russia called for safe corridors to be established in the area to deliver aid and evacuate the wounded. 

Current assaults by pro-regime forces in East Aleppo have received global criticism, with the UN warning that the city could become a “giant graveyard”. However, the Syrian regime is keen to press home current advantages and claim victory in the city, control of which it views as crucial to winning the war.

Backed by air raids and artillery strikes, the offensive on East Aleppo has resulted in an exodus of residents, with the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reporting that since Saturday more than 50,000 people had left the area to territory controlled by regime forces or local Kurdish armed groups.

Steady regime advances

On Thursday, regime bombardment of East Aleppo temporarily calmed as poor weather obstructed visibility slowing regime advances. However, amid large gains in the past week, the Syrian regime is now said to control 40 percent of the territory in the city once held by opposition forces.

Elite forces from Syria’s Republican Guard and 4th Division, as noted by the Syrian Observatory, have also arrived in Aleppo in preparation for street to street battles as the siege on eastern districts of the city tightens.

On Thursday, Russia proposed establishing four humanitarian corridors into east Aleppo in order to deliver aid and evacuate wounded people. Previous attempts to establish humanitarian corridors failed due to disagreements between regime and rebel groups and ongoing fighting.

In the last two months, Russia announced a number of “humanitarian pauses” in Aleppo, calling on civilians and gunmen to leave East Aleppo. However, few took the option.

Calls for humanitarian corridors

Jan Egeland, head of the UN-backed humanitarian taskforce for Syria said that the organisation was giving the Russian proposal serious consideration.

“They want to sit down in Aleppo with our people there to discuss how we can use the four corridors to evacuate people out,” said Egeland, speaking at a press conference in Geneva on Thursday. “We (the UN) now feel confident that the armed opposition groups will do the same.”

Speaking after a press conference with his Turkish counterpart Mevlut Cavusoglu on Thursday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said that Russia had attempted to offer civilians in East Aleppo safe passage out of the area, accusing rebel groups of threatening “to prevent the passage of humanitarian convoys and fire on them.”

Both Lavrov and Cavusoglu expressed the need for a cease-fire in Aleppo, with rebel factions in East Aleppo said to be in communication with Ankara over the potential delivery of humanitarian assistance to the area.

More than 300 civilians have been killed in East Aleppo since November 15, with attacks by rebel groups on West Aleppo also resulting in civilian deaths. This week, the dead included Anas al-Basha, the 24 year-old director of Space for Hope – a charity in the besieged area involved in providing councelling and financial support to children who have lost one or both their parents due to conflict.

In East Aleppo, al-Basha had taken to dressing up as a clown in order to entertain local children before his death in a reported airstrike.

“He would act out skits for the children to break the walls between them,” said a colleague in one moving tribute.

“All of us in this field [of childcare] are exhausted, and we have to find strength to continue with our work.”

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