Middle East

Syria war: Russia halts Aleppo bombing for humanitarian pause

Members of the Syrian Civil Defence, known as the White Helmets, search for victims amid the rubble of a destroyed building following reported air strikes in the rebel-held Qatarji neighbourhood of the northern city of Aleppo, on October 17, 2016 Image copyright AFP
Image caption Much of Aleppo lies in ruins after a sustained bombing campaign

Russian and Syrian warplanes have suspended air strikes in the Syrian city of Aleppo ahead of a humanitarian pause on Thursday, Russia has said.

Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu said the bombing had been halted early on Tuesday.

Russia had already announced an eight-hour pause between 08:00 (05:00 GMT) and 16:00 on Thursday.

Mr Shoigu urged rebels and civilians in the besieged eastern area of the city to use humanitarian corridors to leave.

Russian warplanes pounded the rebel-held areas of Aleppo shortly before announcing Tuesday's suspension, activists say.

A couple and their three children were killed in the overnight bombing, according to the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a monitoring group.

More than 430 people have been killed in the recent bombardment of rebel areas, it says.

UN agencies have criticised the planned length of Thursday's humanitarian pause, saying at least 12 hours will be needed for people to safely leave the besieged area.

"We would welcome any pause in the fighting, but there is a need for a longer pause in order to get the aid in," said UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Rebel-held eastern Aleppo has been pounded by Syrian jets
Image copyright AFP
Image caption Rescuers used a crane to reach this 12-year-old boy who was trapped in rubble

Russia's initial announcement came hours after 14 members of one family were reportedly killed in a strike in Aleppo.

Volunteer rescuers in Syria said eight children and two women were among the dead after heavy bombing, with "bunker-buster" munitions shaking the ground.

Russia has come under increasing criticism from Western nations for its attacks on rebel-held east Aleppo, with the US and the EU calling for a war crimes investigation.

Moscow denies the accusations. President Vladimir Putin dismissed such claims as "rhetoric" that did not take into account the realities in Syria.

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