Aleppo: Ceasefire broken as evacuation of civilians delayed

Posted at 10:11 AM, Dec 14, 2016
and last updated 2016-12-14 10:11:49-05

ALEPPO, Syria — A ceasefire brokered by Turkey with Russia for eastern Aleppo has collapsed less than a day after it was implemented, as Turkey and activists on the ground accused the regime and other forces of heavy shelling and bombardment.

Deaths were reported on both sides Wednesday, while some 50,000 civilians were believed to still be inside the small pocket of eastern Aleppo that remains under rebel control.

The ceasefire was aimed at evacuating both rebels and civilians, but by late afternoon they had not taken place.

Latest developments

Turkish foreign minister accuses Syrian regime and “some forces” of breaking ceasefire Reports of airstrikes and heavy shelling reported in several neighborhoods Planned dawn evacuation of civilians delayed

The Syrian regime entered war-ravaged Aleppo on November 27 and in just over two weeks have seized control of most of it.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Wednesday accused the regime of breaking the truce.

“Turkey will not leave the people of Aleppo alone,” he said, according to state-run news agency Anadolu.

“I call all parties and international society to respect the ceasefire, to support it. A humanitarian corridor should be open and innocent people should be able to leave with no obstacle and sabotage. People of Eastern Aleppo should leave safe and sound.”

AMC activist Salah al-Ashkar told CNN that heavy shelling had resumed on the remaining rebel-held areas Wednesday after the ceasefire was announced late Tuesday.

Fatemah, the mother of 7-year-old girl Bana also tweeted that there was intense bombing taking place.

Aref Al-Aref, a medic inside the zone, spoke to CNN over the phone as the sounds of two explosions rang in the background.

“People were hopeful that they were leaving this hell, But it was a false hope,” he said.

“We are now worried about leaving the house. If the regime decides to launch an air raid, a massacre will take place right away. The area we are left in is too small.”

An AMC activist told CNN “the artillery shells are still falling at an average of two shells a minute.”

CNN could not independently verify the claims of renewed bombardment and shelling.

There have been reports of deaths and injuries on both sides, including three people killed by rebel shelling on several front line areas, according to Syrian state television.

Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu earlier said that the Syrian regime and “some forces” were trying to break the ceasefire.

“We see (the) regime and some forces trying to break the ceasefire. There is Russia here. There is Iran. There are forces supported by Iran and of course the regime. What we want is that nobody should try to throw the ball to others. There is an agreement here and it should be applied,” he told the Turkish state-run news agency Anadolu.

The UN estimates around 50,000 civilians are still trapped inside the rebel-held zone.

The ceasefire that should see government troops, regime-aligned militia and rebel forces hold fire was announced late Tuesday as government forces were on the brink of taking all of Aleppo.

The first group scheduled to leave was supposed to consist of 70 injured people and family members — a total of 150 people.

CNN affiliate ITN, who has a reporter on the ground, has also posted on social media that no buses have left.

An ICRC official in Aleppo told CNN that the organization “is ready to help the parties to this agreement in overseeing the evacuation of civilians.”

He added that they are “on standby” in case a request is made to support in the evacuation.

‘Are you truly incapable of shame?’

Syrian regime forces were on the brink of taking eastern Aleppo on Tuesday as the UN said pro-regime forces had reportedly carried out executions of at least 82 civilians.

The UN said it had received reports that some civilians had been shot in their homes and on sight.

Speaking at a UN Security Council Emergency Briefing on Syria on Tuesday, US ambassador Samantha Power had some scathing words for her Syrian, Iranian and Russian counterparts.

“You bear responsibility for these atrocities,” she said of the plight of eastern Aleppo residents amid reports of widespread summary executions, including of women and children, by Syrian forces in formerly rebel-held areas.

“When one day there is a full accounting of the horrors committed in this assault of Aleppo — and that day will come, sooner or later — you will not be able to say you did not know what was happening.”

She said the actions of the three players “should shame” them.

“Three Member States of the UN contributing to a noose around civilians. It should shame you. Instead, by all appearances, it is emboldening you… Are you truly incapable of shame?”

Dead bodies dumped in front of hospital

Vitaly Churkin, Russia’s ambassador to the United Nations, told the UN Security Council that the Syrian government has established control over eastern Aleppo.

Al-Quds Hospital Director Dr. Hamza al-Khatib told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour that children were being slaughtered in the executions, particularly those with ties to the regime’s opposition.

“People are scared to go out in the street. Dead bodies haven’t been taken to the graveyard to be buried,” he said.

“A lot of people are scared to go to graveyards to bury their own family members. A lot of dead bodies are in front of the hospital.”

Rebel groups held eastern Aleppo for more than four years after the Arab Spring uprising and a Syrian regime siege on the area had essentially cut it off from the outside world, sparking a humanitarian crisis there.

CNN’s Sonia Moghe, Waffa Munayyer, Richard Roth, Merieme Arif, Joel Williams, Fred Pleitgen, Alexander Felton, Emanuella Grinberg, Kareem Khadder, Jomana Karadsheh, Eyad Kourdi, Basma Atassi, Hilary Clarke, Kara Fox, Eliza Mackintosh and James Masters contributed to this report.