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Syria rebels 'preventing' civilians from leaving regime-besieged Aleppo

Up to 300,000 civilians could be left in rebel-held, regime-besieged Aleppo [AFP]

Date of publication: 29 July, 2016

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Only a few residents of Syria's Aleppo were able to leave encircled opposition-held districts through humanitarian corridors before rebels prevented them from fleeing, activists said on Friday.
Only a few residents of Syria's Aleppo were able to leave encircled opposition-held districts through humanitarian corridors before rebels prevented them from fleeing, activists said on Friday.

Russia, a key ally of President Bashar Assad, on Thursday announced the opening of aid passages for civilians and surrendering fighters seeking to exit the city's rebel-held eastern neighbourhoods.

Government aircraft bombed eastern areas of Aleppo overnight, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said. At least 14 civilian casualties were killed, local activist Mohammad al-Halabi told The New Arab.

Entrances to the corridors were effectively shut in rebel areas inside the city Friday, the Observatory said.

The other end of the passages, in government-held territory, were open however, according to activists, which relies of a wide network of sources inside Syria for its information.

Pro-government forces have surrounded Aleppo's eastern districts since July 17, sparking fears for an estimated 300,000 people who live there.

Since they were established "around 12 people managed to use the Bustan al-Qasr corridor before rebel groups reinforced security measures and prevented families from approaching the corridors," Observatory director Rami Abdel Rahman said.

Syria's opposition High Negotiations Committee on Thursday criticised the corridors, saying Russia and the government aimed to "alter Aleppo's demographics and ensure forced displacement".

Pro-government forces have surrounded Aleppo's eastern districts since July 17, sparking fears for an estimated 300,000 people who live there.

Rebel-held neighborhoods have been effectively besieged -- with food shortages and price hikes -- since pro-government forces completely cut off the opposition's main supply road into the city.

Analysts say that losing Aleppo would be a major blow for the armed opposition and could signal a turning point in the conflict, which began in 2011 with the brutal crackdown of anti-government protests.

Syria's five-year war has killed more than 280,000 people, more than 470,000 by unofficial estimates, and displaced millions.

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