The Russian Aerospace Forces do not carry out any airstrikes near Aleppo, but a humanitarian pause is more than the cessation of airstrikes, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said today when asked whether the suspension of flights means the extension of the pause.
“Russia’s planes remain on the ground,” he said. “A humanitarian pause is more than the suspension of airstrikes.”
Russian News Agency “TASS” quoted Russian Defense Ministry Spokesman Major General Igor Konashenkov as saying today that Russia and the Syrian government are ready to resume the humanitarian pauses in Aleppo if they receive guarantees from international organizations about readiness to evacuate the sick and the wounded as well as peaceful civilians from the rebel-held areas.
“The Russian Aerospace Forces and the Syrian Air Force have been sticking to a moratorium on air strikes for the past eight days. They are staying out of a 10-km (six-mile) zone around Aleppo,” Konashenkov explained.
“Six humanitarian corridors, field kitchens and first aid stations are open for civilians leaving eastern Aleppo 24 hours a day,” the Russian Defense Ministry Spokesman said.
“Russia and the Syrian government are ready to resume ‘humanitarian pauses’ in Aleppo if they receive guarantees from international organizations confirming readiness to evacuate the sick and the wounded as well as civilian population from the rebel-held areas,” Konashenkov emphasized.
He also said that the Russian Center for Reconciliation of the Opposing Sides in Syria had turned over 10 tonnes of humanitarian cargoes to the local population in the Sheikh Maqsud neighborhood of Aleppo.
Militants continue to torture those trying to leave Aleppo
Militants in Aleppo are seizing and torturing the relatives of those who used the humanitarian corridors to leave the besieged neighborhoods. They are also using civilians as live shields, according to the refugees who have got in touch with their families and relatives by using local communications means.
“Almost all the refugees have relatives who remained on the opposite side. They say that it is living hell. The militants have captured several people – the relatives of those who managed to flee. Now, all of them are in prison. They say they are being tortured. All of us are very much afraid,” one civilian who had recently left Aleppo via a humanitarian corridor said.
Refugees who manage to escape prefer to be anonymous and are asking journalists not to show their faces on TV. This elderly man’s daughter is staying in eastern Aleppo together with her husband. They have managed to evacuate only their children.
“These are my grandchildren who managed to flee yesterday. Their mother and father stayed there. If the terrorists learn that we are here, they are going to find them and then they will be as good as dead. We believe that they will be able to run away too. Hopefully, our government will be able to evacuate all the people from the besieged city because there is no life there at all,” the man said.
About 50 civilians were evacuated from the eastern part of Aleppo thanks to a joint Russian-Syrian operation late on October 24. They are staying at a humanitarian center in the Ashrafiya district. Russian officers from the Center for the Reconciliation of the Opposing Sides in the Syrian conflict brought the relief aid: canned food, sugar and grits. Volunteers from charitable organizations delivered matrasses and warm things – it is already cold in Aleppo at night. Syrian military often come to treat the children with chocolate and cookies. Everybody helps as he or she can. “We have brought carpets and matrasses here. We are going to bring some warm blankets, food, personal hygiene products and tableware here too to make them feel at home,” Ahmad Ogla, a volunteer from the city of Aleppo, said.
The humanitarian center has minimal conveniences. But the refugees are happy to have even this. The most important thing, adults say, is that our children have started smiling at last, and this is worth living and fighting. The local authorities have already started building small houses for five people for the refugees. The largest family of 16 members will have three such houses at their disposal.
According to the military, about 3,000 civilians remain in the terrorist-held territory for the moment. The Syrian army command established a humanitarian pause in Aleppo from October 20 to 22 along with the Russian side. All the humanitarian corridors are open 24 hours a day.