Russia on Wednesday told anti-government rebels holed up in Syria’s Aleppo to leave by Friday evening, signalling it would extend a moratorium on air strikes against targets inside the city.
The Russian Defence Ministry, which is helping forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad try to retake full control of Aleppo, said rebels would be allowed to exit the city unharmed and with their weapons between 0900 and 1900 local time on Nov 4 via two special corridors.
Civilians and the sick and wounded would be allowed to leave via six other corridors, it said.
President Vladimir Putin had ordered the pause in fighting “to avoid senseless victims,” the Defence Ministry said, saying that Syrian authorities would ensure that Syrian troops pulled back from the two corridors designated for rebels.
Russia and its Syrian allies say they halted air attacks on Aleppo on Oct 18. Western governments had alleged that the strikes had been killing civilians in large numbers, an allegation Moscow denied.
Humanitarian pauses designed to allow both rebels and civilians to exit the city have been organised by Moscow and Damascus before, but have largely failed amid continued violence with both sides accusing the other of stopping people from leaving.
A Kremlin spokesman said on Tuesday that the moratorium on air strikes was still in force, but could not be extended if rebels in the city did not halt their attacks.
The Russian Defence Ministry said on Wednesday that rebels inside Aleppo had taken heavy losses during fighting and were effectively trapped.
“All attempts by the rebels to break through in Aleppo have failed,” the ministry said. “The terrorists have suffered heavy losses in lives, weapons and equipment. They have no chance to break out of the city.”