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Sunday, 11 December 2016

Aleppo: World's biggest hostage crisis comes to an end - but the fake news continues

Christoph Germann

As Syrian government forces recapture more parts of eastern Aleppo, many civilians are risking their lives to flee the besieged opposition-controlled areas, telling the world that the so-called "rebels" stop at nothing to prevent people from leaving.

The Syrian government and its Russian allies have long accused armed opposition groups in Aleppo of holding civilians hostage, whereas western governments and media have been promoting a different narrative in tune with "rebel" and "activist" sources. This narrative is now falling apart.

When government forces first managed to encircle the opposition-held districts of Aleppo in July of this year, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu announced the opening of humanitarian corridors "to aid civilians held hostage by terrorists and for fighters wishing to lay down their arms."[1]

Bashar Jaafari, Syria's ambassador to the United Nations, said in a July 26 letter to the Security Council that "the Syrian Army informed the civilian residents of those neighborhoods that it has secured safe passages, for those who want to safely exit those areas, and that it has allocated temporary accommodation for them."

Jaafari's American counterpart Samantha Power described the letter as "chilling," commenting on Twitter that Jaafari "warns Syrians to leave eastern Aleppo and entrust their lives to a government that has bombed and starved them."[2]

Likewise, the Guardian said the announcement of humanitarian corridors "must be exposed as a cynical ruse," stating that "it is no surprise that Aleppo's population is not rushing towards these exit corridors, which have not in any case materialised on the ground."[3]

Contrary to the Guardian's claims, civilians in eastern Aleppo tried to use the exit corridors, much to the dismay of the armed opposition groups. According to the pro-opposition Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR), only "around 12 people managed to use the Bustan al-Qasr corridor before rebel groups reinforced security measures and prevented families from approaching the corridors."[4]

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