Aleppo braces for all-out assault as Russia’s deadline for rebels to surrender passes

Aleppo braces for all-out assault as Russia’s deadline for rebels to surrender passes

The people of east Aleppo are bracing for a full-scale Russian aerial assault after Moscow’s deadline for rebels and civilians to surrender expired on Friday.

The Kremlin gave residents of east Aleppo a “last chance” to come out of the besieged enclave by 7pm but as the sun set over the battered city there was no sign of people taking up the offer.

Those inside said they now expected Russia and the Syrian regime to resume a heavy bombardment of east Aleppo, where around 275,000 civilians and 8,000 fighters are surrounded by government forces and running out of food and medicine.

“The Russian warplanes are going to make it hell for us again,” said Abdulkafi al-Hamdo, an English teacher, told The Telegraph. “They will say they offered to let us leave and because we didn’t it means we are all terrorists and deserve to be killed.”

Russian and Syrian jets have refrained from striking east Aleppo for the last two weeks and on Friday opened several humanitarian corridors for 10 hours to allow rebel fighters and civilians to come out of the area.

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Regime forces wait outside one of the humanitarian corridors

Green government buses waited at the end of the passages to pick up anyone who did venture out.

But by nightfall no one appeared to have used any of the eight corridors and the two sides gave different explanations for why civilians were staying inside the besieged city.

The Syrian regime said residents were being stopped from leaving by rebel fighters and jihadists who wanted them as “human shields” to deter an assault. Rebels appeared to fire rockets at one of the corridors on Friday afternoon in what may have been an effort to discourage people from going out.

But opposition groups said the civilians feared they would face torture and imprisonment by the regime if they moved into government-held territory and would take their chances underneath the aerial bombardment than surrender.

Russia’s only aircraft carrier, the Admiral Kuznetsov, arrived off the Syrian coast this week after a voyage through the English channel and the Mediterranean and its jets are expected to join in the bombardment.

The Telegraph saw a convoy of dozens of Russian troops transporting heavy weaponry into west Aleppo through the town of Ramousseh to the south of the city.

One Syrian military officer who did not give his name as he was not authorised to speak to the press said the Russians would be leading the ground offensive and would make up as much as 80 per cent of the pro-government forces.(unconfirmed)

Some estimates have the number as high as 5,000 Russian soldiers stationed in the country.

The depleted Syrian army is relying heavily on Russian airpower and thousands of fighters from Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan and the Lebanese Shia militia Hizbollah.

Meanwhile, rebel fighters in the countryside outside the city continued their efforts to try to break the regime siege and open up a supply line to the opposition-held eastern side, which has been totally cut off since the summer.

Rebel forces have been shelling regime-held west Aleppo for more than a week, killing dozens of civilians and prompting a UN warning that their indiscriminate fire may be a war crime.

Two Russian soldiers were lightly wounded by rebel fire on Friday, the Russian military said.

Dozens of patients arrived at the al-Razi hospital on Thursday after rebel mortar hit the residential New Aleppo neighbourhood. The injured included young children and the elderly.

Lacking sophisticated anti-aircraft weapons to take on the Russian jets and Syrian helicopters, rebel fighters have turned to a low-tech alternative: children’s balloons filled with hydrogen and packed with small explosives.

Fighters have been releasing bunches of the balloons into the skies above the besieged city in the hope that enemy aircraft will suck them into their engines, causing them to explode.

Bassam Hiji, a spokesman for the Nour al-Din al-Zenki group, said rebels made the hydrogen themselves and fitted the balloons with an improvised detonator no bigger than a pen.

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Hydrogen itself is highly explosive and the balloons burst into flame when they come into contact with heat.

“We know they are basic but they are one of the improvised weapons the fighters are in order to defend against the Russian airplanes and the regime airplanes that are bombarding the civilians,” Mr Hiji said

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DAILY TELEGRAPH  4 November 2016

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Editor:the Russians will be leading the ground offensive in East Aleppo?
There are 5000 Russians there with “heavy weaponry”
(according to the Daily Telegraph) ??
there are 8000 IS proxy troops surrounded and cut off there, who apparently were offered the chance to surrender and leave the zone, but have refused ???
and if American planes (accidentally on purpose) attack the assault force, they will be attacking directly , head on, Russian special storm forces backed up by the Admiral Kuznetsov moored out to sea???

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