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4 Nov, 2016 07:43

Aleppo: 2 Russian soldiers injured, media evacuated in militant shelling of humanitarian corridor

Two Russian soldiers were injured by enemy fire in Aleppo when a humanitarian corridor they were guarding was shelled by militants, the Russian military reported.

“The soldiers were promptly evacuated to a safe part of the city and treated for their injuries. Their lives are not in danger,” the Russian Defense Ministry said in a statement.

It added that the attack on the corridor through which militants wishing to leave with their arms are granted safe passage prompted the evacuation of some 50 journalists from various media outlets who were covering the ongoing unilateral ceasefire declared by Russia and Syria this morning.

A journalist working for Syiran TV channel Al Ekhbariya was injured in the leg during the shelling, Syrian news agency Sana reported.

The attack targeted the western part of the corridor near Castello road.

“The shelling involved gas cylinder projectiles fired from improvised rocket launchers and mortar fire,” the ministry statement said.

“Militants have started to shell the humanitarian corridor near the Castello road. Their main target is the Russian forces’ monitoring center nearby, as well as a humanitarian convoy used for evacuation,” an RT correspondent at the scene said.

“It is not the first time a humanitarian action announced by [Russia] ends up like this. Four shells have [just] hit our check point,” a Russian officer from the monitoring center told RT, stressing that the casualties and damage caused by the shelling are yet unknown.

“One general of the Syrian Armed Forces is injured,” he added.

“If the militants believe that they could dictate the terms of a ceasefire or achieve their goals by such means, then they are deeply mistaken,” the officer said.

The shelling of the corridor also forced Russia’s Defense Ministry to terminate its live video feed from the area.

The Russian military had set up cameras in Aleppo to stream live pictures of the humanitarian corridors for militants online. A unilateral ceasefire in the embattled Syrian city came into force at 9am local time on Friday and will last for ten hours, until 7pm.

The cams have been set up on the ground near the western part of Castello Road and the El-Masharka checkpoint. An aerial view is also available.

The unilateral ceasefire in the embattled Syrian city of Aleppo announced by the Russian military has started 9am local time on Friday.

The pause is intended to allow civilians and armed militants to leave the eastern part of the city through separate humanitarian corridors. 

“To avoid unnecessary casualties, Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu has declared the humanitarian pause in Aleppo upon an order by Commander-in-Chief Vladimir Putin,” Valery Gerasimov, chief of the Russian General Staff, said on Wednesday.

The 10-hour cessation of hostilities was coordinated with Syrian government, General Gerasimov stressed, adding that the militants have no chance of breaking out. One of the corridors for the militants leads to the Turkish-Syrian border and another to Idlib, the general said.

Earlier on Thursday, militants intensified their attacks on the government-held western part of the city, and an RT crew came under heavy shelling while filming in one of Aleppo’s neighborhoods.

Aleppo has been divided between government forces and armed opposition groups, including Al-Nusra terrorists, for over two years. The hostilities in the city have intensified over the past few months, as Damascus deployed additional troops to encircle the militant-held part of Aleppo.

The West has condemned Russia and Syria for the offensive on eastern Aleppo, blaming airstrikes for civilian deaths. Moscow says the militants are preventing civilians from leaving the city and using them as human shields, but has nevertheless paused its sorties against terrorist targets in Aleppo.

Meanwhile, the UN said on Friday that it cannot use the ongoing ceasefire to deliver humanitarian aid to eastern Aleppo or conduct medical evacuations because it has not been given safety guarantees.

“Medical evacuations of sick and injured could unfortunately not begin this morning as planned because the necessary conditions were not in place,” said Jens Laerke, a spokesman for the United Nations humanitarian office.

The office said earlier that its plans to provide relief in Aleppo faced obstruction by some rebel groups, which set preconditions for allowing a UN convoy into their territory.

The militants criticized the UN for being focused on enabling people to leave rather than providing relief supplies to allow them to stay, claiming that the organization was in league with Russia and Damascus to depopulate Aleppo.

Aleppo has been divided between government forces and various rebel and terrorist groups, including hardline extremists, for over two years. The hostilities have intensified in the past few months as Damascus deployed additional troops and encircled the militant-held eastern part of Aleppo.

The armed groups in Aleppo are disunited and occasionally fight with each other over territory and supplies. The more belligerent factions reportedly attacked fighters trying to accept the withdrawal deal and leave Aleppo.