UN: Syria fighting cuts off passage to rebel part of Aleppo

AP , Tuesday 12 Jul 2016

Intensified fighting between Syrian government forces and rebels north of the contested city of Aleppo has completely cut off the only road allowing access for humanitarian aid deliveries into the rebel-held part of the city, a U.N. spokeswoman said on Tuesday.

Alessandra Vellucci said the passageway, known as the Castello road and considered the only access in and out of eastern Aleppo, has been rendered "impassable" since hostilities there worsened last week.

The U.N. estimates that 300,000 people depend on the road, which allows for the flow of supplies, goods and civilians into the area. Vellucci added that the U.N. continues to receive "distressing reports of aerial bombardment and shelling on civilian locations in both western and eastern Aleppo."

Syria's largest city and once its commercial center, Aleppo has been bitterly contested between the warring sides in Syria's civil war since the summer of 2012. The city and its suburbs have witnessed intense shelling and fighting over the past few days during which government forces were able to effectively cut the main route into rebel-held neighborhoods. The Castello road has been a lifeline to the people in the rebel-held part of the city.

The fighting came despite a unilateral cease-fire declared by the Syrian military last week, which it later extended until Thursday.

A Turkey-based Syrian opposition figure, Osama Taljo, warned on Tuesday at a press conference in Istanbul that the vast majority of those who are now encircled in Aleppo are civilians, mostly women and children.

"The rebels have numerous ways of getting supplies and improvising roads but those at risk are the women and children. This is why we need the international community to take action," he said, speaking on behalf of various opposition factions in Aleppo.

Taljo derided the government declared cease-fires, which he said are a cover for military assaults. "The cessation of hostilities means an escalation in hostile acts by the regime," he told reporters.

As government forces closed the Castello road, rebels hit back with an offensive on government-held districts of the city on Monday. The rebel shelling and ensuing clashes were some of the most intense near the old quarter and the city's famed citadel.

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