Foreign-sponsored Takfiri militant groups fighting to topple Syrian President Bashar al-Assad are preventing civilians from fleeing Syria’s northwestern city of Aleppo through humanitarian corridors set up by the government, a UK-based monitoring group says.
The so-called Syrian Observatory for Human Rights announced on Friday that humanitarian corridors opened to allow civilian evacuation are effectively shut in the militant-held areas of the strategic city, located some 355 kilometers (220 miles) north of the capital Damascus.
It added that civilians, along with militants who have chosen to surrender, are provided the opportunity to leave Aleppo in government-controlled districts.
Since they were set up “around 12 people managed to use the Bustan al-Qasr corridor before militant groups reinforced… measures and prevented families from approaching the corridors,” said Rami Abdel Rahman, the monitoring group’s director.
The report came only a day after Syria and Russia announced the opening of aid corridors in besieged Aleppo.
Russia’s Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said Russian forces were coopering with the Syrian army to open three humanitarian corridors “to aid civilians held hostage by terrorists and for fighters wishing to lay down their arms”, adding that a fourth such corridor would be set up to the north of Aleppo.
Shoigu further noted that medical and food assistance would be offered along the corridors to civilians and surrendered militants.
President Assad says the government will pardon militants who turn in their weapons, stressing that the policy has been exercised by Damascus since the outbreak of the crisis in the Middle Eastern country.
“If they want to return to normal life and lay down arms, they will get amnesty,” he told the Greek ITV television network on Wednesday as cited by the official SANA news agency.
Syria has been gripped by foreign-backed militancy since March 2011. UN special envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura estimates that over 400,000 people have been killed in the conflict.
The UN has stopped its official casualty count in Syria, citing its inability to verify the figures that it receives from various sources.