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Russia announces 8-hour ceasefire in Aleppo; EU warns of 'war crimes'

Collapsed buildings are seen after Russian army's War Crafts carried out over opposition controlled residential areas in Aleppo. Photograph: (Getty)

WION Aleppo, Syria Oct 17, 2016, 07.25 PM (IST)

Russia on Monday announced an eight-hour "humanitarian" ceasefire in Syria's rebel-held city Aleppo later this week, the AFP reported.

The ceasefire would run from 0800 to 1600 local time (0500 GMT to 1300 GMT) in the city, senior Russian military officer Sergei Rudskoi told the press in Moscow.

"We have taken a decision not to waste time and to introduce 'humanitarian pauses', mainly for the free passage of civilians, evacuation of the sick and wounded and withdrawal of fighters," Rudskoi said. "During this period the Russian air force and Syrian government troops will halt air strikes and firing from any other types of weapons."

The announcement came the same day that EU warned that the Russia-backed air-strikes in Aleppo could amount to war crimes.

"Since the beginning of the offensive by the regime and its allies, notably Russia, the intensity and scale of the aerial bombardment of eastern Aleppo is clearly disproportionate," EU foreign ministers said at a meet in Luxembourg.

"The deliberate targeting of hospitals, medical personnel, schools and essential infrastructure, as well as the use of barrel bombs, cluster bombs, and chemical weapons, constitute a catastrophic escalation of the conflict... and may amount to war crimes," they said in a statement.

The United Nations and European Union welcomed the announcement but said the ceasefire was too short to allow the delivery of humanitarian aid, AFP reported.

EU foreign affairs chief Federica Mogherini said that as per aid agencies, at least 12 hours were needed to evacuate civilians.

"It can be a start... for sure it is a positive step," she said after the ministerial meeting in Luxembourg. "The latest assessment from the aid agencies (however) is that 12 hours is needed so work is needed to find common ground."

UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said there was "need for a longer pause in order to get the aid in," AFP reported.

The EU ministers said they would also press ahead with extending sanctions against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's regime, but stopped short of threatening measures against Russia.

Air-strikes and clashes in Aleppo have increased as Russian-backed Syrian forces announced their assault on the rebel-held eastern part of the city on September 22. More than 430 people have been killed since then, AFP reports.

Monday's air-strikes in eastern Aleppo killed dozens of civilians including 12 members of the same family, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said. The deaths take the number of people killed since Sunday morning to 47. Another 82 people died in rebel fire on government-held neighbourhoods in the west. Further west in Aleppo province, Russian raids killed 23 people in the village of Uwaijal on Monday, the Observatory said.

On Saturday, US Secretary of State John Kerry met envoys from Russia, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Egypt, Jordan, Iraq and Qatar to find a solution to the crisis in the war-ravaged country.

The meeting ended without any major breakthrough and the envoys agreed to meet for follow-up talks.

(WION with inputs from AFP)

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