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Russia says halt in Aleppo bombing will be extended

EDITORS NOTE: Graphic content / A Syrian woman carries the body of her infant after he was retrieved from under the rubble of a building following a reported airstrike on September 23, 2016, on the al-Muasalat area in the northern Syrian city of Aleppo. Missiles rained down on rebel-held areas of Syria's Aleppo, causing widespread destruction that overwhelmed rescue teams, as the army prepared a ground offensive to retake the city. / AFP PHOTO / THAER MOHAMMED

Moscow: Moscow has said that Russian and Syrian warplanes have not conducted any air strikes on the city of Aleppo for the last seven days and are upholding a moratorium on bombing.

“All flights by Russian and Syrian air forces have been completely halted in a 10-kilometre zone around Aleppo since October 18,” senior military official Sergei Rudskoi said at a briefing yesterday.

“The moratorium on air strikes by Russian and Syrian planes around the city will be extended,” he added, without specifying a timeframe.

A so-called “humanitarian pause” declared by Damascus and Moscow ran out at 1600 GMT on Saturday, and the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported there were air strikes afterwards against the opposition-controlled district of Sheikh Saeed.

Russia’s defence spokesman Igor Konashenskov said earlier that six passages for civilians to leave rebel-held eastern Aleppo were still functioning and that 48 women and children left late Monday.

Moscow had on Monday ruled out early moves to renew its total ceasefire in Aleppo after the brief halt ended, admitting that few people had used humanitarian passages to leave the city and blaming failures by the US-led coalition.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov yesterday urged the United Nations to do more to facilitate the evacuation of the injured from the battered city.

In a phone conversation with his German counterpart Frank-Walter Steinmeier, Lavrov “stressed that representatives of the UN’s humanitarian agencies should act in a more resolute manner to remove the obstacles” preventing aid from getting in to eastern Aleppo and those injured from getting out, the Russian foreign ministry said.

Syrian doctors have deplored the failure to evacuate the wounded and sick from rebel-held areas of Aleppo, also blaming the UN for failing to guarantee their security.

More than 250,000 people are still living in the besieged area.

For its part the UN on Monday criticised Syrian forces and rebel groups for failing to organise evacuations during the ceasefire window.

Russian and Syrian planes had stopped bombing from the air on Tuesday last week ahead of the ceasefire.

The West has accused Moscow of perpetrating potential war crimes in Aleppo through indiscriminate bombing in support of a regime offensive to retake total control over Syria’s second city.

Nearly 500 people have been killed and more than 2,000 wounded since the Syrian army, backed by Russian airpower, launched an operation to recapture eastern Aleppo on September 22.

PTI