Speed Reads

Fall of Aleppo

Aleppo ceasefire, evacuation appear on brink of collapse, and rebels mostly blame Iran

The ceasefire in eastern Aleppo brokered Tuesday by Russia and Turkey appeared to be on the brink of collapse Wednesday. Lebanese TV showed empty buses driving away that were supposed to take civilians trapped in the shrinking opposition-held part of the city to safety, and rebels and outside monitoring groups reported a resumption of shelling and aerial bombing by forces fighting for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Osama Abu Zayd, a legal adviser to the Syrian opposition forces, said Iranian militias are behind the renewed fighting and disintegrating ceasefire accord. "It is clear that the Russians can't get Iran to abide by the deal," he told The Associated Press. Along with shelling the opposition's remaining square mile, Abu Zayd said the Iranian militia commanders are making new demands, including the freeing of Iranian prisoners in Idlib province. Russia's Defense Ministry blamed the rebels for breaking the ceasefire, claiming opposition forces "resumed the hostilities" at dawn, trying to fight their way out of Aleppo.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu spread the blame among Assad and his allies. "We see now that the regime and other groups are trying to obstruct this (deal)," he said Wednesday. "This includes Russia, Iran, forces supported by Iran, and the regime." Under the terms of the ceasefire, the tens of thousands of civilians trapped in eastern Aleppo and fighters were supposed to be transported to rebel-held areas in northern Syria, in effect surrendering the stronghold opposition forces have held since 2012. People in eastern Aleppo report streets filled with dead bodies and the summary execution of women, children, and other civilians by pro-Assad forces.