Syria says east Aleppo ceasefire has begun

State media said the army had opened exit corridors in two designated areas in the Bustan al Qasr quarter.

FILE: Syrian security members gather at the site of a bomb attack. Picture: AFP

BENGALURU - The Syrian military said on Thursday a unilateral ceasefire backed by Russia had come into force to allow people to leave besieged eastern Aleppo, a move that the rebels have said was part of a psychological campaign to get them to surrender.

State media earlier said the army had opened exit corridors in two designated areas in the Bustan al Qasr quarter and near the Castello road in northern Aleppo city, where waiting green buses were shown on state television.

Intensified Russian and Syrian bombing of besieged rebel-held parts of Aleppo in the last few weeks has hit hospitals, bakeries and water pumping stations, and killed hundreds of civilians.

The Syrian military said on Wednesday it would observe a temporary ceasefire to allow trapped civilians to escape and said it had pulled back to enable rebel fighters to leave the city via two designated corridors.

"We guarantee a safe exit, seize the opportunity and save your families," an army loudspeaker blared near an exit corridor shown live on the pro-Syrian government Lebanese news channel Mayadeen.

Rebels say the goal of Moscow and President Bashar al-Assad is to empty rebel-held areas of civilians so they can take over the whole city.

The rebels say they are preparing a large-scale offensive to break the siege of Aleppo and say the Russian air force has failed, despite a relentless bombing campaign.

They say the army and its Iranian-backed militias are finding it harder to make headway after initial progress on the outskirts of the city that allowed the army to tighten its grip.