Mortar fire breaks Russian-declared fighting halt in Aleppo

Mortar fire breaks Russian-declared fighting halt in Aleppo

A unilateral Russian-declared ceasefire for Syria's Aleppo ended on Friday evening, marred by rebel fire on evacuation routes and with no sign any civilians or rebels left besieged neighbourhoods.

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, said Fr Alsabagh Ibrahim, the 44-year-old parish priest at the city's St Francis's Latin Church.

The Observatory said that by midday no one had used the corridors.

The Qasioun news agency reported that the planes fired missiles on the towns of Urem al-Kubra and Kfar Naha in western Aleppo, wounding several people.

Faris Shalki, Member of parliament from Aleppo, told Syrian government media that he believed the "rebels" were holding civilians as hostages and preventing them from leaving their zone of the city.

Russian officials had not said what would happen when the deadline expired.

"The Russians are exerting more pressure on the rebellious people of Aleppo to get them out of the city", al-Youssef told The Associated Press in an exchange of messages. But there were reports of airstrikes on the city's edge and in rural areas. "And armed opposition groups have indiscriminately bombarded civilian areas in western Aleppo and elsewhere", said Samah Hadid, Deputy Director for Campaigns at Amnesty International's Beirut regional office.

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The so-called "humanitarian pause" is the second time Russian Federation and its regime ally have declared passages open for evacuations. President Vladimir Putin urged opposition fighters to leave via the corridors.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights claimed 74 people had died, while the Syrian military claimed that in the first three days of the offensive more than 80 people had been killed.

The Friday cease-fire came as a Russian naval battle group, including the Russian aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsov, approached the Syrian coast.

More than 8000 balloons are said to have been deployed in the hydrogen method to bring down the planes behind air strikes which have killed thousands of residents in the divided city.

The rebels dismissed Friday's ceasefire as a ploy by Moscow to deflect worldwide criticism of the high civilian death toll from its bombing campaign.

Rights groups and the United Nations have sharply criticized the rebels over the shelling of western Aleppo districts, which has killed a number of civilians.

A military source, however, said the second wave of attacks on Thursday was foiled by the Syrian army and allied fighters.