Four days into a cease-fire in Syria's civil war, aid convoys have yet to reach civilians in government- and rebel-held areas of Aleppo, as Russian troops prepared to deploy along a key road getting for supplies through.
Syrian government forces have been replaced by Russian troops on Castello Road, which leads to rebel-held areas of the besieged city, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a London-based monitoring group. Humanitarian aid could arrive in rebel-held parts of Aleppo later Friday, but other obstacles remain, the group said.
Among them was continued violence, and objections from other parties on the ground.
Secretary of State John Kerry told Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov that Russia needs to pressure the Syrian government to let aid through to Aleppo and other areas or the United States will not set up a joint facility to coordinate attacks on terrorists and share intelligence. Kerry called the delays in humanitarian aid to Aleppo “repeated” and “unacceptable.”
The cease-fire has led to greater calm since it began Monday night, though violence continues and the first three civilians were killed Thursday, according to the Syrian Observatory. All three were in rebel-held areas: two were children, and two killed by government sniper fire, the group said.
The powerful Nour el-Din el-Zinki opposition group said that government forces were still on the road, according to the Associated Press. Castello Road, nicknamed "Death Road” is said to be the only way into rebel-held neighborhoods in eastern Aleppo.
Maj.-Gen. Igor Konashenkov, a spokesman for the Russian defense ministry, said Russian troops watching the road are ready to replace Syrian government troops as soon as opposition forces are ready to pull back. In a statement, he questioned the rebels’ “ability to comply” with the terms of the cease-fire, according to the Associated Press.
And pro-government civilians in villages north or Aleppo also staged a demonstration calling for aid deliveries to rebel-held areas to be blocked until a rebel sieges are lifted from other loyalist communities across Syria, especially the towns of Fua and Kafarya, in Idlib Province, according to a report by NOW News of Lebanon.
“We call here on the Syrian government and friendly states to prevent the entry of any kind of aid to the eastern neighborhoods of Aleppo before its passage to Fua and Kafarya,” the group said on its FaceBook page.
Kerem Kınık, the president of Turkish Red Crescent, said the organization had no confirmation that Castello road was safe for its convoy and that its trucks were waiting at the border.
On Thursday Steffan de Mistura, the U.N. Special Envoy for Syria, said aid groups were facing problems delivering aid, particularly in Aleppo and blamed a lack of authorization from the government of Syrian President Bashar Assad.
The U.S.-Russia brokered cease-fire deal that came into effect Monday has largely reduced the violence in more than the five-year-old conflict, he said.