Aleppo: Ceasefire collapses as evacuations stall

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Syrian pro-government forces advance in the Jisr al-Haj neighbourhood during the ongoing military operation to retake remaining rebel-held areas in the northern embattled city of Aleppo on December 14, 2016. (George Ourfalian/AFP/Getty Images)

A ceasefire brokered by Turkey with Russia for eastern Aleppo has collapsed less than a day after it was implemented, as Turkey and activists on the ground accused the regime and other forces of heavy shelling and bombardment.

Deaths were reported on both sides Wednesday, while some 50,000 civilians were believed to remain inside the small pocket of eastern Aleppo still under rebel control.

The ceasefire was aimed at evacuating both rebels and civilians, but by late afternoon the promised evacuations had not taken place.

Latest developments

UN’s human rights chief says resumed bombardment in Aleppo likely a war crime Doctors in the city are “terrified and losing hope,” Doctors Without Borders says Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan accuses Syrian regime of breaking ceasefire Airstrikes and heavy shelling reported in several neighborhoods Planned dawn evacuations of civilians did not happen UN estimates 50,000 people trapped in rebel-held Aleppo Iranian President Hassan Rouhani called Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to congratulate him, state media says

Ceasefire a ‘false hope’

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein said he was appalled by the ceasefire agreement’s swift collapse.

“While the reasons for the breakdown in the ceasefire are disputed, the resumption of extremely heavy bombardment by the Syrian government forces and their allies on an area packed with civilians is almost certainly a violation of international law and most likely constitutes war crimes,” he said in a statement Wednesday.

Aref Al-Aref, a medic inside the zone, spoke to CNN over the phone Wednesday as the sounds of two explosions rang in the background.

"People were hopeful that they were leaving this hell. But it was a false hope," he said.

"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."

Abo Ka'afar, a forensic medicine specialist, told CNN Wednesday that several areas had been under bombardment since the early morning, including points where people were supposed to be evacuated from.

"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.

CNN could not independently verify the claims of renewed bombardment and shelling.

The Syrian regime is on the brink of taking the whole city of Aleppo, having made sweeping gains in just over two weeks since its forces, backed by airstrikes, entered the enclave by ground.

Rebel groups held eastern Aleppo for more than four years after the Arab Spring uprising, and a regime siege on the area had essentially cut it off from the outside world, sparking a humanitarian crisis there.

'Why are you silent?'

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Wednesday accused the regime of breaking the truce.

"Turkey will not leave the people of Aleppo alone," he said, according to state-run news agency Anadolu.

"I call all parties and international society to respect the ceasefire, to support it. A humanitarian corridor should be open and innocent people should be able to leave with no obstacle and sabotage. People of Eastern Aleppo should leave safe and sound."

Aleppo Media Center activist Salah Ashkar told CNN earlier that shelling was ongoing in his neighborhood, and posted a video to Twitter showing walls in his building damaged and rubble all over the rooftop.

"A missile just fell on the roof of my building," he said in the video. "Now the people who were waiting (for) the buses have to run back for their lives again (to) find shelter."

Fatemah Alabed, the mother of a 7-year-old girl whose tweets from Aleppo have captured the world's attention, said intense bombing was taking place, asking: "Why are you silent? Why?"

Fatemah also tweeted directly to Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu, saying that they had hope yesterday, "but what's happening now? Please help us now. No more time left."

Cavusoglu responded, saying "Keep your hope my sister. Turkey hears your call."

Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo said the Eiffel Tower would go dark on Wednesday night as a gesture of solidarity with the people of Aleppo.

France, along with the UK, called an emergency meeting in the UN Security Council on Tuesday.

No evacuations

Turkey's Cavusoglu earlier said that the Syrian regime and "some forces" were trying to break the ceasefire.

"We see (the) regime and some forces trying to break the ceasefire. There is Russia here. There is Iran. There are forces supported by Iran and of course the regime. What we want is that nobody should try to throw the ball to others. There is an agreement here and it should be applied," he told the Turkish state-run news agency Anadolu.

The ceasefire that should see government troops, regime-aligned militia and rebel forces hold fire was announced late Tuesday as government forces were on the brink of taking all of Aleppo.

The truce was supposed to see the safe passage of rebels and civilians out of eastern Aleppo.

The first group scheduled to leave was supposed to consist of 70 injured people and family members -- a total of 150 people.

An ICRC official in Aleppo told CNN that the organization "is ready to help the parties to this agreement in overseeing the evacuation of civilians."

He added that they are "on standby" in case a request is made to support in the evacuation.

'Are you truly incapable of shame?'

The UN on Tuesday said pro-regime forces had reportedly shot at least 82 civilians on sight the previous day as several reports of mass executions emerged.

The UN said it had received reports that some civilians had been shot in their homes.

Speaking at a UN Security Council Emergency Briefing on Syria on Tuesday, US ambassador Samantha Power had some scathing words for her Syrian, Iranian and Russian counterparts.

"When one day there is a full accounting of the horrors committed in this assault of Aleppo -- and that day will come, sooner or later -- you will not be able to say you did not know what was happening."

She said the actions of the three players "should shame" them.

"Three Member States of the UN contributing to a noose around civilians. It should shame you. Instead, by all appearances, it is emboldening you... Are you truly incapable of shame?"

Russian Ambassador Vitaly Churkin shot back, saying that Power was speaking "as if she is Mother Teresa herself."

He blamed the US' and UK's intervention for creating the ISIS militant group, which has drawn a US-led coalition into Syria's civil war. He also claimed that the Syrian regime was now in control of all of Aleppo.

If the regime does take control of the key city, it would mark a turning point in the brutal five-year war that has killed hundreds of thousands of people.

CNN's Impact Your World team has ways viewers/readers can help Syrians. Please visit

CNN's Sonia Moghe, Waffa Munayyer, Richard Roth, Merieme Arif, Joel Williams, Fred Pleitgen, Alexander Felton, Emanuella Grinberg, Kareem Khadder, Jomana Karadsheh, Eyad Kourdi, Basma Atassi, Hilary Clarke, Kara Fox, Eliza Mackintosh, James Masters and Catherine E. Shoichet contributed to this report.

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