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Russia Says Air Strikes On Aleppo Halted


Members of the Syrian Civil Defense, known as the White Helmets, search for victims amid the rubble of a destroyed building following reported air strikes in the rebel-held Qatarji neighborhood of the northern city of Aleppo on October 17.

Russia says the Russian and Syrian air forces are halting air strikes on the northern city of Aleppo.

Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said on October 18 that strikes were suspended starting from 10 a.m. local time to allow time for civilians and rebels to prepare to leave the besieged city.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov later described the decision as a "manifestation of goodwill by the Russian military.”

Earlier, Syrian activists said that "Russian airplanes carried out intensive air strikes after midnight” in Aleppo’s rebel-held areas.

Russia had announced it would allow civilians and rebel fighters safe passage out of the city’s eastern districts on October 20.

The United Nations welcomed that announcement, but said the pause was not long enough to allow aid deliveries or the evacuation of civilians.

And the UN said on October 18 that it is waiting for security guarantees before carrying out humanitarian operations in Aleppo.

"We need all weapons to fall silent,” a spokesman for the UN humanitarian agency, Jens Laerke, said. “We need assurances from all parties to the conflict, not just a unilateral announcement that this will happen.

Laerke said the UN is calling for a “48-hour pause" to allow the delivery of humanitarian aid and the evacuation of the sick and wounded.

The United States called the pause in fighting a "good thing" but cautioned that it's “a bit too little, too late."

In Washington on October 17, U.S. State Department spokesman Mark Toner said the goal of Russian and Syrian forces is "to starve out and to drive out the opposition and civilians who've held on there for so long."

Syrian opposition activists said Russian-led air strikes in and around Aleppo on October 17 killed at least 36 people.

Based on reporting by Reuters, Interfax, and AFP