‘We were living in security and peace. These areas are being targeted, they want to force us to leave. Every Syrian is being targeted,’ one Syrian religious leader told a delegation of reporters who visited Aleppo earlier this month.
by Eva Bartlett
Part 5 - Humanitarian crossings: shelling of Castello road
On Nov. 4, prior to our 9:30 a.m. arrival at the Bustan al-Qasr crossing and until our departure an hour later, no one had been able to cross from the area just beyond crossing, which is occupied by Jaysh al-Fatah militants.
Two weeks prior to our arrival, journalists had reported that terrorist factions heavily shelled the crossing and areas around it starting in the early morning.
A Syrian general at the crossing confirmed that shelling had taken place on Oct. 20, adding that three police officers had been wounded. A journalist in the delegation asked the general what he would say to Syrian civilians like Bashir Shehadeh, who demanded that the SAA eliminate the terrorist factions.
“We need to be patient, because the civilians there are not able to leave, they are not guilty,” the general replied. “We don’t work the way that the terrorists work.”
Regarding the amnesty decree issued by President Bashar Assad in late July, the general explained that terrorists who want to be granted amnesty could lay down their arms. Those who choose to go on to Idlib would be granted safe passage by the Syrian government and army, in coordination with the Red Cross and Red Crescent.
According to the general, when two militants arrived at the Bustan al-Qasr crossing about two months ago, they surrendered their arms and proceeded under amnesty.
Five months ago, he said, 12 civilians crossed there, were treated in Aleppo’s hospitals, and returned to their homes in terrorist-held eastern Aleppo.
At the Castello Road humanitarian crossing, the large green buses which were said to be evacuating militants from areas of eastern Aleppo in recent weeks were there again, waiting to ferry away more. Ten ambulances, three buses, and 14 minivans were lined up in anticipation of any civilians or militants trying to leave terrorist-occupied areas, whether for safe passage elsewhere or to settle in government-secured areas of Aleppo.
George Sire, 25, an anesthesiologist at Salloum Hospital in Aleppo, was one of the volunteers who arrived at the crossing with five of the private hospital’s ambulances, at the request of the Syrian government.
When speaking with a Syrian commander about permitting men who had used arms against Syrian civilians and soldiers to lay down their arms and reconcile, he said they are sons of the country and urged them to reconcile.
At around 1:30 p.m. the first shell struck, hitting near Castello Road. About 10 minutes later, while I was being interviewed, a second hit, this time considerably closer, within 100 meters — close enough, in fact, to create a cloud of dark smoke over the road. It prompted security to usher me away from the road and move our delegation away from the crossing.
I later learned that another five shells targeted the crossing, injuring a Syrian journalist and two Russian soldiers.
No one passed through this or any of the other seven humanitarian corridors that day.