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Aleppo

Aleppo ceasefire ends without promised evacuations

No civilians were evacuated during the three-day Russian-backed truce in Aleppo. Neither residents nor rebels in the opposition-held part of the city heeded calls from Syria's army or Moscow to leave.

A ceasefire in the Syrian army's Russian-backed assault on rebel-held Aleppo has expired with the United Nations saying it had been unable to evacuate anyone from the ravaged city.

Ingy Sedky, spokeswomen for the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in Syria, said evacuations were impossible due to the poor security situation in the city. 

The team, Sedky added, was unable to enter rebel-held eastern Aleppo, which has been under siege since July, adding there was mortar shelling and sniper fire.

Some 2,000 wounded civilians remain stuck in Aleppo's rebel-held eastern districts after access was sealed off in a recent Syrian government offensive, backed by Russian warplanes.

Since July, Syrian government forces, backed by Russian airstrikes, have cut off all access to eastern Aleppo, sealing off a pocket about 13 kilometers (8 miles) long and 5 kilometers wide.

Earlier on Saturday, the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said civilian representatives from regime districts had attempted to enter the city's eastern neighborhoods to "evacuate the injured but failed."

No aid has entered Aleppo since July 7, and food rations will run out by the end of October, UN chief Ban Ki-moon warned on Thursday.

Rebels to blame, says Russia

Russia's foreign ministry and military chiefs accused al-Qaida allied militants of blocking deliveries of food and medicines to Aleppo's civilians while the West turned a blind eye.

In remarks televised Saturday, Dmitry Peskov, Russian President Vladimir Putin's key spokesman, dismissed long-standing calls for Assad's departure.

"There are just two options: Assad sitting in Damascus or the Nusra sitting in Damascus," Peskov said, referring to al-Qaida's branch in Syria, which renamed itself as Fatah al-Sham Front earlier this year.

"If Damascus falls and terrorists take hold there, there will be no political settlement then," said Peskov, adding that the entire country must be "liberated."

His remarks came as a Russian aircraft carrier, the "Admiral Kuznetsov" headed for the eastern Mediterranean via Europe's Atlantic seaboard. Russia has a naval facility in the Syrian port of Tartus.

Planting vegetables in craters

The Associated Press news agency reported Saturday that residents were digging wells and planting vegetables in bomb craters left by missiles, including bunker-busting bombs. Only a few schools were still operating.

On Friday, the Geneva-based UN human rights council, in a resolution spearheaded by Britain, condemned President Bashar al-Assad's offensive, and admonished "terrorist acts" by extremists.

The council also called for a special probe into Aleppo's violence, saying individuals responsible for the most serious violations should be identified.

Russia, which began its air campaign in support of Assad a year ago, described the council's criticism as "pathetic."

Since Syria's conflict began in 2011, more than 300,000 people have been killed. 

ipj/jlw (AP, Reuters, AFP)

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