Russia and the Syrian government announced a ceasefire in the besieged city of Aleppo on Tuesday, brokered with Turkish involvement.
By Wednesday morning, it was clear the ceasefire had already collapsed, and some 50,000 civilians are in danger within rebel-controlled areas of the city.
CNN reporters could actually hear explosions in the background as they received a dismal ceasefire update from medic Aref al-Aref.
“People were hopeful that they were leaving this hell. But it was a false hope,” Aref said, referring to promises that civilians would be able to evacuate the war zone. This was always an unclear point in the deal, as Russian and Syrian sources argued there was no need for civilians to evacuate now that Syria’s government was once again in possession of the city.
“We are now worried about leaving the house. If the regime decides to launch an air raid, a massacre will take place right away. The area we are left in is too small,” Aref continued.
Another source within Aleppo, forensic medical specialist Abo Ka’afar, reported bombardment began in the early morning hours.
“The injured are lying on the ground. The dead are on the ground. There are no cars or anything to save them. The shelling is continuing. The people are getting injured and there is no one to save them. Oh people, we beg you, we beg you, we beg you,” he said, apparently pleading for some kind of international intervention.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan angrily blamed the Syrian regime for breaking the agreement Turkey helped to arrange, and vowed his country “will not leave the people of Aleppo alone.” He demanded a resumption of the ceasefire and evacuation for all civilians in eastern Aleppo.
Syrian media, on the other hand, blamed the rebels for breaking the truce by directing rocket fire at government-held quarters of the city.
The BBC also reported “fierce fighting” and airstrikes on rebel-held areas Wednesday morning, an area that has been condensed to only a single square mile, thanks to advances by government forces. That would be a single square mile with 50,000 civilians trapped inside, subjected to renewed aerial bombardment.
“The clashes are violent and bombardment is very heavy… it seems as though everything (the ceasefire) is finished,” said Rami Abdulrahman, director of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, as quoted by the BBC.
According to several reports, including an AFP dispatch cited by the BBC, the bombing resumed while crowds of civilians were thronging in the streets of Aleppo waiting for evacuation, causing an unknown number of casualties and obliging the survivors to run for cover.
The BBC also reports that “Western forces are using satellites and unmanned aircraft to gather evidence of possible war crimes in Aleppo and elsewhere in Syria.” If the eyewitness accounts cited above are accurate, there will be plenty for the satellites to see when they pass over Aleppo. Sources at the United Nations are already talking about renewed airstrikes on the city as a violation of international law.