Al Nusra Blocking Aleppo Aid Delivery*
Russia is calling on the international community to ensure the safe passage of civilians evacuating Aleppo.
Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov said on Wednesday that Russia and the Syrian government were ready to resume the ‘humanitarian pause’ which initially began last week.
“Six humanitarian corridors are open around the clock, hot food and first-aid are provided for the civilians leaving the eastern districts of Aleppo,” Konashenkov said.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov earlier blamed the Islamist terrorist group Al Nusra Front and its affiliates in eastern Aleppo for blocking humanitarian aid efforts to reach some 250,000 civilians.
He also said the U.S. had failed to identify and separate what are classified as legitimate – or moderate – rebel groups from Al-Qaeda loyalists such the Al Nusra Front.
This had been one of the main conditions leading up to the September ceasefire, and – Lavrov says – failure to implement the separation contributed to its collapse.
Russia began a unilateral ‘humanitarian pause’ in Aleppo last week to allow civilians to leave the city and facilitate aid deliveries.
Russian military sources said that some civilians using ‘safe corridors’ were fired upon by rebel groups.
Lavrov’s statements came following telephone diplomacy he conducted separately with both his German counterpart Frank-Walter Steinmeier and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry.
State Department spokesperson John Kirby said that during their phone call Kerry had expressed concern about the renewal of “attacks on Aleppo by Syrian government forces and Russian warplanes after a pause in the fighting last week”.
Following the phone calls, the Russian Foreign Ministry issued a statement about Al Nusra Front blocking aid delivery.
“Representatives of U.N. humanitarian agencies should eliminate these obstacles, and cooperate with the countries which have an influence on the militants,” the ministry noted.
Meanwhile, Amnesty International on Wednesday called on the U.S.-led Coalition targeting the Islamic State in both Iraq and Syria must do more to ensure it does not strike civilian areas.
“In its backing of anti-ISIS ground forces during this summer’s Manbij campaign, the U.S.-led coalition killed some 250 or more civilians, and yet it does not acknowledge them,” said Neil Sammonds, Amnesty’s researcher for Syria.
“We fear that since it is not recognising or learning from such mistakes that in the campaign for Mosul, which is far greater than Manbij, the coalition is on course to kill even greater numbers of civilians and risk a serious backlash.”
Earlier this week, the Russian military said it had tracked two US-led Coalition fighter jets which had fired on a funeral gathering in a town near Iraq’s Kirkuk.