Some two weeks after initially announcing what was going to be an eight hour ceasefire in Aleppo, Russia has continued to hold their fire, and today announced an extension of the operation through Friday, calling on the rebels to take the opportunity to withdraw from the city.
While on the one hand this marks an extension of the ceasefire, the Friday deadline may amount to Russia’s government announcing an upcoming end to the pause. This comes a day after Russian officials warned the rebel offensives around Aleppo were jeopardizing the ceasefire, and a few days after Russian President Vladimir Putin rejected a call from the Defense Ministry to resume strikes.
The rebels fighting in Aleppo have rejected Russia’s call to withdraw from the city by Friday evening as “completely out of the question,” insisting they intend to remain in the city to prevent allowing it to fall into the hands of the Russian military.
Of course, Russia’s involvement has only been airstrikes in Aleppo, with the fighting on the ground all between the Nusra Front-led rebels and the Syrian military. The military has been seen to have a major advantage recently, though a rebel offensive over the weekend may have turned the tables, and is likely to reason why there is growing pressure from Russia’s Defense Ministry to resume the airstrikes.
Russia has promised two corridors through which rebels can leave the city, and said they will allow them to take their weapons with them. The offer is similar to deals wherein rebel factions withdrew from small suburbs around Damascus, but of course on a much grander scale. That the rebels have already rejected it, however, suggests they believe they are not defeated yet.