A ceasefire deal between rebels and the Syrian government in the city of Aleppo has broken down, threatening plans to evacuate the remaining fighters and tens of thousands of civilians.
The withdrawal was supposed to start at dawn, but shelling resumed in the morning hours and buses meant for the evacuations, which were waiting at the rendezvous point on the edge of the rebel enclave, returned to their depots.
Activists and rebels trapped in the opposition’s last sliver of territory in Aleppo said pro-government forces had struck their district with dozens of rockets since mid-morning.
"The bombardment is scarcely to be believed on the eastern neighbourhoods and until now 40 people have been wounded," said Ibrahim al-Haj, a spokesman for the Syrian Civil Defence first responders.
BREAKING: Media reports say Buses meant to take rebels and civilians out of Aleppo return to depots, signaling collapse of truce deal.— The Associated Press (@AP) December 14, 2016
"They are using all forms of weapons."
The Syrian government ordered its green-coloured buses back, signalling that the deal mediated between Ankara and Moscow on Tuesday night to bring the fighting to an end in Aleppo was off.
The Lebanese al-Manar TV, broadcast footage of the buses leaving the evacuation point empty and said government forces had resumed fighting with rebels in the city.
Al-Manar is the media arm of the Lebanese militant Shiite group Hezbollah, which is fighting alongside Syrian President Bashar Assad’s government forces.
Activists in eastern Aleppo blamed government forces, saying they shot first. Media activist Mahmoud Raslan said he was reporting for a Turkish agency when a rocket crashed beside him at around 10:15am.
The Russian Defence Ministry said in a statement that the rebels "resumed the hostilities" at dawn, trying to break through Syrian government positions to the north-west.
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu accused the Syrian government and its allies of trying to scuttle the deal.
"We see now that the regime and other groups are trying to obstruct this (deal)," he said in remarks quoted by the state-run Anadolu Agency.
"This includes Russia, Iran, forces supported by Iran and the regime."