Dozens flee as Russia opens escape routes in rebel held Aleppo
Karam Al-Masri (AFP)
Russia's defense ministry on Saturday announced that four additional "humanitarian corridors" will be opened from Syria's besieged Aleppo, adding that 169 civilians have been able to get out so far.
"Four humanitarian corridors are being opened, in addition to those prepared earlier for the exit of civilians from Aleppo neighborhoods controlled by militants," a defense ministry statement said.
Three corridors had already begun working in the area, it said.
"Since the start of the humanitarian operation... 169 civilians have left the neighborhoods controlled by illegal armed groups through the exit points," it added.
Sixty-nine rebels have laid down arms and 59 people received medical treatment, according to the statement.
The crossings, some of which were shown on Syrian television, were the first major movement of people from the besieged districts of the city after Moscow announced Thursday that it would open the passages.
The defense ministry said that 85 civilians left the eastern parts of Aleppo Friday, with 52 more on Saturday. It added that the Syrian government has "prepared six humanitarian aid centers which can accommodate three thousand people."
No aid has entered east Aleppo for weeks, and international agencies have warned that residents there risk starvation.
Syria's opposition has dismissed the humanitarian corridors initiative as a ploy and part of the government's bid to recapture all of Aleppo city.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based monitor, confirmed that "a number" of civilians had left the east of the city through a passage in the Salaheddin neighborhood.
It had no exact figures for the number of people who had evacuated.
Aleppo has been roughly divided between government control in the west and rebel control in the east since mid-2012, and the frontline runs through several neighborhoods, including Salaheddin.
The rebel-held side of the city has been effectively under government siege since July 7, when regime forces advanced to within firing range of the only remaining supply route to opposition neighborhoods.
The encirclement has led to food shortages and spiraling prices in the east, with fears of a humanitarian crisis for the estimated 250,000 still living there.
The UN has repeatedly called for weekly 48-hour ceasefires around Aleppo, where it says food supplies are due to run out in mid August.
Meanwhile the Syrian Red Crescent said on Saturday that they and the International Committee of the Red Cross were delivering 44 trucks of aid to the city of Nawa in the south eastern Daraa governate. The aid is enough for 50,000 people, the Red Crescent said in a tweet.
(Staff with AFP)
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