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  • » 11/03/2016, 15.57

    SYRIA

    As rockets hit west Aleppo wounding three Christians, rebels reject evacuation offer



    Father Ibrahim Alsabagh confirms that rockets launched from east Aleppo hit “houses and buildings inhabited by civilians”. Moscow opens eight humanitarian corridors for people fleeing east Aleppo. Rebels say, “we won’t surrender”. Militias are mining escape routes.

    Aleppo (AsiaNews) – Rockets launched from Aleppo’s rebel-held eastern sector have hit "houses and buildings inhabited by civilians," including a Christian area seriously wounding at least three people (pictured), said Fr Alsabagh Ibrahim, the 44-year-old parish priest at the city’s St Francis’s Latin Church.

    “For the past three, years, we have been living under rocket attacks from the armed militias who control east Aleppo and surroundings,” the Franciscan clergyman told AsiaNews.

    He hopes that a solution can be found to alleviate the suffering of a people that has had to endure since March 2011 a conflict that has caused 300,000 deaths (450,000 according to other sources) and millions of refugees.

    Syria and Russia have suspended air strikes against east Aleppo in the past two weeks as part of an "humanitarian pause" repeatedly broken by rebel groups.

    Even yesterday rockets fired from the eastern sector (home to 250,000) hit the western government-held area of the city, home to about 1.2 million people.

    Russian and Syrian officials issued an ultimatum to the Syrian rebels in east Aleppo that they have until Friday to leave the city. In a statement the Russian Defense Ministry said that the militiamen will be allowed to leave "unharmed" and "with their" weapons through two special corridors.

    As done in October, six other corridors are reserved for civilians who want to flee along with the sick and those wounded in the fighting. The corridors will be open from 9 am to 7 pm, local time.

    However, the rebels have already rejected the proposal and this attempt – as others before – seems doomed to fail.

    Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered his men to take all the necessary steps to avoid casualties, particularly among civilians.

    Russia's Foreign Minister, Sergei Lavrov, said his country sought "honest co-operation" and "a political process involving both the government and opposition forces".

    The rebels rejected the offer. "This is completely out of the question," Zakaria Malahifji of the Fastaqim rebel group told the Reuters news agency. "We will not give up the city of Aleppo to the Russians and we won't surrender."

    According to Russian sources, the insurgents were undermining the humanitarian pause. “Radical groups are mining the humanitarian corridors, shooting peaceful civilians who are trying to leave the eastern parts of the city, and are doing everything to undermine the stabilization of the situation in Aleppo,” said Russian Lt Gen Sergei Rudskoi.

    Meanwhile, divisions and tensions have come to the surface within the rebel camp. One rebel figure, Yasser al-Yousef of the Nour el-Din el-Zinki group said that his faction and the Fastaqim group have clashed for control of the rebel forces that hold east Aleppo.

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