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28 Jul, 2016 15:08

Aleppo residents begin escape from besieged neighborhoods via safe passage – local media

The first group of residents trapped in eastern neighborhoods of Aleppo, Syria’s largest city before the civil war, have begun their escape through a humanitarian corridor created with Russia’s help, Al Mayadeen TV has reported.

Leaflets with directions to the four safe passages out of the areas under siege have been distributed around the neighborhoods.

"To avoid unintended casualties among peaceful citizens, the Syrian government is asking you to leave the blocked areas. The Aleppo governor gives you an opportunity to exit through the routes specified in the scheme. Save your life and the lives of your loved ones,” reads a leaflet obtained by RT.

Those fleeing Aleppo are advised to raise their hands with the leaflet while approaching checkpoints, to move slowly and to follow the commands of the Syrian military. Once near checkpoints, they will be required to turn around to demonstrate they do not have explosives on them.

Aleppo governor Mohammad Marwan Olabi said makeshift centers equipped with medical services are ready to take the refugees, SANA reported.

On Thursday, Russia and Syria launched a large-scale humanitarian operation for Aleppo residents, opening three humanitarian corridors for civilians and one for the passage of fighters.

Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu noted that the fourth corridor has been set up because the US failed to provide Russia with data on Al-Nusra Front terrorist group, which has recently been attempting to merge with other armed opposition groups in Syria. Moscow is still expecting to receive data on the whereabouts of the moderate opposition in Syria, Shoigu noted.

“In the past two hours more than 25 gunmen have turned themselves in with weapons, others have decided to flee the area, leaving behind their heavy weaponry,” Syrian journalist Alaa Ebrahim told RT, citing a source in the Syrian Army.

On Thursday, Syrian President Bashar Assad issued a decree granting amnesty to all militants that surrender. This prompted “scores of terrorists” to turn themselves in and lay down their arms, a source told SANA. 

Despite the increasing number of settlements adhering to the Russia-US brokered ceasefire regime, which came into force on February 27, not all the groups claiming to belong to the “moderate” opposition are observing the truce. In June, militants from an Al-Qaeda-linked group, Jaysh al-Islam, shelled a UN humanitarian convoy near Damascus, according to reports from the Russian Defense Ministry.

At the request of US Secretary of State John Kerry, Russian experts have been sent to Geneva to work out joint steps designed to stabilize the situation in Aleppo. To avoid a repeat of the disastrous Iraqi, Libyan, and Afghan scenario, Moscow offered to unite with its partners in the fight against terrorism, the Russian defense minister said.

UN Syria envoy Staffan de Mistura has also called on Russia and the US to team up in an effort to curb the fighting in Syria.

"We are all awaiting and urging the two co-chairs – which means Russia and the US – to expedite their own discussions on how to reduce violence," Mistura said in comments on the Geneva talks.

He said it would be premature to comment on Syria and Russia's announcements of an aid plan for civilians besieged in eastern Aleppo and an amnesty for surrendering fighters there, which he said the United Nations, "like everyone else," was not consulted on beforehand. The situation in Aleppo was extremely serious, with only two to three weeks of supplies left, he said.