By Andrew Osborn and Lisa Barrington
MOSCOW/BEIRUT, Oct 25 – Russia said on Tuesday Russian and Syrian military planes had not launched air strikes on Aleppo since Moscow said it was suspending bombing seven days ago, contradicting a monitor who says air strikes on some areas resumed on Saturday.
Defence ministry spokesman Major-General Igor Konashenkov said Russian and Syrian planes had not even approached, let alone bombed, the devastated city since last Tuesday when Russia suspended air strikes ahead of a pause in hostilities.
“Flights over Aleppo by the Russian and Syrian air forces have been completely halted for the last seven days,” said Konashenkov in a statement.
He said six humanitarian corridors in eastern Aleppo, which opened as the 48-hour ceasefire began on Thursday, were still operating. Around 50 women and children had left the city late on Monday escorted by Russian military officers, Konashenkov said.
But the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said air strikes had resumed since the lull in fighting ended on Saturday, hitting a major frontline in the city’s southwest. No deaths occurred inside residential eastern Aleppo, the monitor said, indicating there had been no air strikes in the area.
On Tuesday, districts outside the city to the west of Aleppo were hit by air strikes, the Observatory said. Air strikes had continued outside Aleppo during the ceasefire.
Aleppo, Syria’s most populous city before the war, is now divided into government- and rebel-held areas. Intense bombardment by Syrian and Russian warplanes has reduced the rebel-held east of the city to ruins.
Russia has accused rebels of thwarting its efforts to evacuate civilians, saying they opened fire on those wanting to leave, but rebel groups say Syrian government forces and allies had been shelling and sniping around the corridors.
Rebels did not accept the ceasefire, which they said did nothing to alleviate the situation of those who chose to remain in eastern Aleppo, and was part of a government policy to purge cities of political opponents.
The Observatory and some Western countries have repeatedly accused Russia of inadvertently killing civilians in its air strikes on rebels in Aleppo, something Moscow denies.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Tuesday questioned why there was so much focus on allegations that Russia had caused civilian deaths in Aleppo rather than on Iraq, where a U.S-backed offensive is trying to take Mosul from Daesh.
The United Nations said on Monday it has abandoned plans to evacuate patients from eastern Aleppo, something it had hoped to accomplish during last week’s lull in fighting.
It blamed all parties to the conflict for obstructing its efforts.