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Syria announces surprise easing of Aleppo assault

Once Syria's commercial hub, Aleppo has been divided by rebel groups in the east and regime forces in the west since violence erupted there in 2012. Photograph: (AFP)

Damascus, Syria Oct 06, 2016, 03.56 AM (IST)

The Syrian army Wednesday warned civilians and rebels to leave Aleppo or face their "inevitable fate", hours after it decided to downscale its attack on the eastern part of the embattled city.

Russia-backed Syrian forces had decided to reduce its air strikes and shelling of rebel-held neighbourhoods in eastern Aleppo after it claimed to have made significant advances in "cutting off all terrorist supply routes" into such areas.

The decision to lessen its bombardment of rebels came after Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov and his US counterpart John Kerry discussed Syria over the phone, Russian news agency TASS reported.

"The military command has decided to reduce the number of air strikes and artillery on terrorist positions to allow civilians that want to leave to reach safe areas," a statement issued by the Syrian army read, AFP reported.

It remains unsure if Russia would reduce its air strikes on the city.

Russia had launched a fresh and a brutal offensive against the United States-supported rebels after a ceasefire brokered by Washington and Moscow crumbled on September 22.

As many as 270 people, including 53 children, have been killed in the last two weeks.

Aleppo, the country's largest city, has come under siege from Syrian forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad as it seeks to drive out rebels from the eastern part of the city.  

However, air strikes continued to take place on the southern edges of Aleppo on Wednesday despite Assad administrations' decision to reduce its attacks on the rebels.   

Meanwhile, Washington has decided to suspend its plans to hold bilateral talks with Moscow. It has refused to hold peace talks with the Russian government due to its continuing air strikes on rebel positions in the war-torn city.

(WION with inputs from agencies)

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