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Russia extends moratorium on Aleppo air strikes

The UN on Monday had criticised the Syrian forces and the rebel groups for failing to organise evacuations during the ceasefire window. Photograph: (AFP)

WION Moscow, Russia Oct 25, 2016, 11.05 PM (IST)

Russia on Tuesday announced the extension of a moratorium on air strikes by Russian and Syrian planes on the city of Aleppo. 

Defence ministry spokesman Major-General Igor Konashenkov said Russian and Syrian planes had not even approached, let alone bombed, the devastated city since last Tuesday when Russia suspended air strikes ahead of a pause in hostilities.

"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. 

Moscow said it will uphold the moratorium on bombings that has been in effect for the last eight days, but did not specify a timeframe. 

Dismissing Russia's claims, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said that rebel-held parts of the divided city had been struck in recent days, although there had been no civilian deaths from air strikes inside eastern Aleppo. 
The monitor told that air strikes had resumed since the lull in fighting ended on Saturday, focusing on major front lines, including in the city's southwest. 

Washington said it would prefer a long-term ceasefire to ensure delivery of aid, and urged Russia to use the newly announced pause to ensure support to besieged civilians.

"We obviously welcome any reduction in the violence, but it has to be met with a commitment and an actual delivery of humanitarian assistance, which was the purpose in the first place," the state department spokesman John Kirby told a briefing.

Earlier, Russia said that six passages for civilians to leave rebel-held eastern Aleppo were still functioning and that 48 women and children left late Monday. 

But it had ruled out early moves to renew its total ceasefire in Aleppo after the brief truce ended. It said that few people had used humanitarian passages to leave the city, blaming the US-led coalition of failure to ensure security. 

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

(WION with inputs from agencies)

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