Fighting erupts anew while Syria, rebels blame each other for mess.
Aleppo: Shelling and air strikes sent terrified residents running through the streets of Aleppo on Wednesday as a deal to evacuate rebel districts of the city was in danger of falling apart.
The agreement reached Tuesday was meant to pave the way for thousands of civilians and rebel fighters to evacuate Syria’s second city, scene of some of the worst fighting in more than five years of war.
But cold and hungry civilians who had gathered before dawn to evacuate were instead plunged back into a familiar nightmare.
“Bombing is ongoing, no one can move. Everyone is hiding and terrified,” activist Mohammad al-Khatib told AFP from inside the city. “The wounded and dead are lying in the street. No one dares to try and retrieve the bodies.”
The evacuation, agreed under a deal brokered by Russia and Turkey, had been due to begin at 5 am but was delayed, with buses parked outside rebel-held areas left waiting.
Following several hours of quiet, fighting then erupted anew in the ravaged city, with Syria’s regime, the rebels and their foreign allies trading accusations of blame.
As booms of air strikes and artillery fire rang out, an AFP correspondent in rebel areas saw panicked civilians running in the streets to find shelter, some hiding in the doorframes of damaged buildings.
The correspondent saw several wounded civilians, as well as a regime tank turning its cannon towards opposition-held districts and opening fire.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported “very intense clashes on every front line” and said at least two people had been killed in rebel areas.
State television said rebel rocket fire on government-controlled areas had also resumed, killing at least seven people.
Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov said Moscow expected rebel resistance in the city to end in the next “two to three days”.
Rebels and a source close to the regime told AFP that the evacuation had been suspended after objections from the Syrian government. The source said Damascus objected to the number of people leaving, claiming rebels had sought to raise it from 2,000 to 10,000.