Aleppo bombing halted for 8 hours only, opposition rejects withdrawal

Russian Federation has repeatedly demanded that the Syrian rebels break off from Fateh al-Sham Front, which the United Nations considers a terrorist group, as a condition to revive a ceasefire in Aleppo.

It added that the group stated in a letter that it sought the session "following the most recent deterioration of the human rights situation in Aleppo".

The Syrian crisis is likely to be discussed by Putin, German chancellor Angela Merkel and French president François Hollande when they meet in Berlin on Wednesday, primarily to discuss the Ukrainian stand-off.

In Germany, Chancellor Angela Merkel said sanctions against Russian Federation over its actions in Syria should remain an option.

Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu said on Tuesday that Russian and Syrian air forces had stopped airstrikes on Aleppo from 1000 local time (0700 GMT), ahead of the announced "humanitarian pause" scheduled for October 20.

The 20 members of the same family were killed in airstrikes on the neighborhood of Marjah in rebel-held east Aleppo Monday morning, according to activists at the Aleppo Media Center (AMC) and the White Helmets group.

Russian Federation had said on Monday that there would be an eight-hour "humanitarian pause" in Aleppo tomorrow, a move welcomed by the United Nations (UN) and the European Union which nevertheless said the ceasefire needed to be longer to allow the delivery of aid.

Meanwhile, the wife of Syria's President Bashar al-Assad said in an interview that her husband's foes had offered her the chance to flee Syria in order to try to shake confidence in him, but that she had not left the country since the war erupted.

Both Russian and Syrian air raids were suspended at 10am yesterday, defence minister Sergei Shoigu said. Syrian rebels, including al-Qaida militants, as well as the wounded and the sick will be allowed to leave to the neighbouring rebel-held province of Idlib. Air raids have killed hundreds and caused global outrage.

They had no immediate word on casualties.

In Moscow, Shoigu added that Russian Federation is "asking the countries wielding influence with the (Syrian) persuade their leaders to end fighting and leave the city".

Russia's Defence Ministry said on Monday that a pause in strikes on Syria's largest city would be in force on Thursday, from 0800 (0500 GMT) until 1600, to allow civilians and rebels to leave the city.

The Russian-backed offensive to capture rebel-held eastern Aleppo has killed several hundred people since it got under way last month after the collapse of a truce brokered by Russia and the US.

"Their work will be aimed first of all at separating the "moderate opposition" from the terrorists and its withdrawal from the eastern part of Aleppo", he said.

U.S. state department spokesman Mark Toner, speaking to reporters in Washington on Monday, said the Russian-Syrian pause planned on Thursday was "a bit too little, too late".

Russia's announcement did not include any promises of an extended cease-fire or local administration in and around Aleppo.

Mroue reported from Beirut.

  • Joey Payne