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Aleppo Siege: Russia Announces Humanitarian Operation in Syrian City

by The Associated Press /
Image: SYRIA-CONFLICT-ALEPPO
A view of previously rebel-held district of Leramun, on the northwest outskirts of Aleppo.GEORGE OURFALIAN / AFP - Getty Images

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MOSCOW — Russia and the Syrian government said they will open humanitarian corridors in Syria's embattled city of Aleppo on Thursday and offer a way out for opposition fighters wanting to lay down their arms.

The offer announced by Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu came as Syrian forces took another district from rebels in the city. Meanwhile, Syria's President Bashar Assad also announced a general amnesty for rebels who give up their weapons and surrender to authorities over the next three months.

Image: SYRIA-CONFLICT-ALEPPO
A view of previously rebel-held district of Leramun, on the northwest outskirts of Aleppo.GEORGE OURFALIAN / AFP - Getty Images

Rebels and residents of Aleppo said they were deeply skeptical of the Russian-Syrian offer, and there was no immediate sign of people massing to leave the besieged parts of the city.

Rights groups said opening safe passages to civilians trapped in eastern Aleppo city won't avert a catastrophe and does not give Syrian and Russian forces carte blanche to further blockade the opposition-controlled territory.

Related: U.S. Doctors: 300,000 Face Death or Starvation in Aleppo

In a statement Thursday, the London-based Amnesty International said providing safe routes for those civilians wishing to leave is "no substitute for allowing impartial humanitarian relief for civilians who remain in opposition-held areas," many of whom will be skeptical about government and Russian promises.

"Providing safe routes for those civilians who wish to flee Aleppo city will not avert a humanitarian catastrophe," said Philip Luther, director of the Middle East and North Africa program for Amnesty.

Humanitarian groups have warned of a major catastrophe if the siege on the rebel-held parts of Aleppo continues. Some 300,000 residents are trapped in the eastern part of the city that is controlled by rebels, according to the United Nations.

Assad has issued amnesty offers several times during Syria's civil war, now in its sixth year. The latest offer — like those before it — is largely seen by opposition fighters as a publicity stunt and psychological warfare against the rebels. More than a quarter of a million people have died and millions have been displaced since March 2011, when Syria's conflict erupted.

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