Russia’s defence ministry said it will cease hostilities around Syria’s ravaged city of Aleppo for three hours each day to allow humanitarian aid into the city.
“To guarantee total security for the convoys to Aleppo there will be humanitarian windows established from 10am to 1pm local time starting tomorrow,” the ministry said on Wednesday.
“All military hostilities, aviation strikes and artillery strikes will be halted.”
The announcement was made as rebel forces continued to gain territory from fighters loyal to President Bashar al-Assad.
The UN’s aid chief Stephen O’Brien, however, said the plan would not be enough to reach all civilians in need in and around the city, and called for a 48-hour pause in fighting.
“To meet that capacity of need, you need two lanes and you need to have about 48 hours to get sufficient trucks in,” he said.
The UN has called for urgent aid access to Aleppo, warning that civilians are at risk from water shortages and disease as fighting has intensified.
Its children’s aid division, Unicef, said on Tuesday that two million civilians were at risk because of the fighting.
Sergey Rudskoy, chief of Russia’s general staff, said that “more than 1,000 were killed and about 2,000 wounded” in the rebel ranks over the past four days southwest of Aleppo.
He added that a road had been built to an area on the northern outskirts of Aleppo through the Castello shopping centre to “ensure safety and organise round-the-clock delivery of food, water, fuel, medicine and other necessities to the city’s west and east”.
“We support the proposals by the UN to establish joint control over the delivery of humanitarian aid to the population of Aleppo along the Castello Road,” he said.
The recent flare-up in fighting began in late June as government forces closed in on the Castello Road, the last route into rebel-held parts of the city.
Rebels and pro-government fighters have sent hundreds of reinforcements to Aleppo since opposition forces broke a government siege at the weekend and vowed to capture the entire city.
Rebels accused of rocket attacks
Rocket fire from Syrian rebels killed at least 14 people and left dozens wounded on Wednesday in government-held areas of the city, state media said.
The attacks were reported as fighting broke out along the southern edges of the battered city on Wednesday night.
Syrian state news agency SANA said rebel fire on the government-controlled district of Hamdaniyeh on Wednesday killed 13 people and wounded 25 others.
Rocket attacks on another government-held neighbourhood killed one person and wounded 12 others earlier in the day.
SANA said Russian and government planes targeted “terrorist” positions in the city’s south, as an AFP journalist in Aleppo said intense airstrikes and artillery fire could be heard.
An estimated 1.2 million people live in zones controlled by forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad in Aleppo, with about 250,000 people in the rebel-held eastern districts.
Residents across the city have been living in fear of competing sieges since fighting surged in late June over rival access routes into Aleppo.