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Aleppo strikes to be halted for eight hours on Thursday: Russia

SYRIA-CONFLICT-RUSSIA

Aleppo: Any lessening of the violence, lessening of the fighting, any pause that’s actually implemented, would be very much welcome.

Russia: Civilians and Rebels will be given eight hours to leave the city during which the Russian and Syrian armed forces will halt attacks on Aleppo on Thursday, the Russian Defence Ministry said on Monday.

But Moscow ruled out a lasting ceasefire, a step that Western governments have been demanding, saying that would only give Islamist rebels in the city an opportunity to regroup.

The United Nations, which has long called for weekly 48-hour humanitarian pauses in the fighting, welcomed the Russian announcement.

“Any lessening of the violence, lessening of the fighting, any pause that’s actually implemented, would be very much welcome,” U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric told reporters.

“We will use whatever pause we have to do whatever we can. Obviously there is a need for a longer pause in order to get (aid) trucks in,” he said.

Russian aircraft and Syrian forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad have been bombarding rebel-controlled districts of Aleppo continuously since the collapse of an internationally-brokered ceasefire last month.

Speaking at a briefing in Moscow, Lieutenant-General Sergei Rudskoy, a senior Defence Ministry official, said rebels in parts of Aleppo were killing civilians while Western governments turned a blind eye.

“Given the situation, a unilateral ceasefire makes no sense, since Jabhat al-Nusra and groups allied to it will once again be given a breather, will regroup and restore their military capability,” Rudskoy said, referring to a rebel group previously allied to al Qaeda.

“Russia was working with other powers to achieve a peace deal for Aleppo, but that would take time, so in the meantime it had decided to initiate a humanitarian pause,” he said.

The pause is intended “first and foremost so that civilians can move freely, for the evacuation of the sick and wounded, and also for the removal of rebels,” he said.

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