Aleppo: Mortar attack marks end of ceasefire

Residents of Aleppo, Syria sneak out dead man

Mortar fire from regime forces struck the al-Mashhad neighborhood of eastern Aleppo on Saturday evening as a three-day Russian-backed ceasefire came to an end at 7 p.m. (noon ET), according to the activist Aleppo Media Center.

The Russian Defense Ministry had called for the ceasefire — termed a “humanitarian pause” — so rebels, civilians and medical cases could evacuate Aleppo during daylight hours without fear of being struck by bombs.

But it appears few, if any, actually left the besieged city.

The UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Saturday it didn’t know of anybody who evacuated using any of the eight corridors announced by the Syrian regime and Russia.

Thousands of families tried to leave the eastern neighborhoods via the Bustan al-Qassr corridor but were prevented by the rebels, who opened fire to disperse them, reported SANA, the Syrian state news agency.

Local committees in regime-controlled areas tried to evacuate the wounded but failed, SOHR said.

The United Nations canceled plans for medical evacuations Friday, the day after the start of the ceasefire, after saying it failed to get the necessary security assurances.

A medical convoy west of Aleppo was bombed about a month ago, killing at least 20 people. The United States blamed Russia for that attack.

Rebels and residents contacted by CNN also said they weren’t budging, largely out of mistrust of Syria and Russia.

The renewed fighting Saturday left three people wounded in the al-Mashhad and Salaheddine neighborhoods, the SOHR said. Warplanes flew over the eastern parts of the city and shelled areas southwest and south of the city.

Other short-term ceasefires have been called in the past for Aleppo, with little result.

The forces of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, backed by Russian warplanes, have been pummeling eastern Aleppo as they seek to wrest it from rebel control.

The part most devastated by airstrikes, rebel-held eastern Aleppo, has about 250,000-275,000 residents who are trapped by government troops.

The city is about 70 square miles — about twice the size of Paris. Control of the city is heavily fractured, split between the Syrian regime, rebels, Kurds and ISIS.

International efforts to stop the fighting have been ineffective. The UN Special Envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura, warned a few days ago that “between now and December, if we cannot find a solution, Aleppo will not be there anymore.”

By Ralph Ellis, Merieme Arif and Mohammad Eyad Kourdi