UN: Security Concerns Prevent Aleppo Evacuations
By VOA News October 21, 2016
The United Nations was forced to postpone planned medical evacuations in the eastern part of the ancient city of Aleppo Friday because security assurances were not given by groups fighting in the city.
"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, spokesman for the United Nations humanitarian office.
Laerke didn't specify which groups failed to honor the humanitarian pause ordered by Russia a day earlier, saying only that the U.N. and the people of Aleppo were in an "astronomically difficult situation."
Russia on Thursday ordered that a humanitarian pause in Aleppo be extended for another 24 hours. Syria and Russia stopped airstrikes on Aleppo Tuesday and the pause in fighting had been due to end at 7 p.m. local time Thursday.
As part of the truce, the Syrian and Russian forces opened up eight corridors civilians can use to safely exit the city. Two of those corridors have also been opened up to rebel fighters who wish to lay down their weapons and flee; one leading to Turkey and the other a pathway to the rebel-held Syrian province of Idlib.
On Friday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said militants associated with al-Qaida in Aleppo are refusing to leave the city. He told reporters Russia is "seriously concerned that, despite the gestures of goodwill from Moscow and Damascus," the al-Qaida-linked fighters are maintaining their positions in Aleppo, believing the offer to safely leave the city is not serious.
When asked if cease-fire decisions would be made daily, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said decisions would be based on the current situation in Syria since "the situation is changing quite quickly, it could change for the worse."
The United Nations said about 250,000 civilians are in desperate need of supplies on Aleppo's eastern side and hundreds of others who urgently need of medical care need to be evacuated.
U.N. and Red Cross trucks packed with supplies have been sitting near the Turkish border for weeks, awaiting guarantees they can safely deliver relief supplies.
Syrian and Russian warplanes had been bombarding the area in an attempt to reclaim Aleppo from rebels.
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