Aleppo truce extended amid Russian assault fears

A ceasefire in Aleppo has been extended by 10 hours, amid fears Russia is preparing a final assault on the rebel-held part of the city.

The humanitarian pause in Russian and Syrian government airstrikes will now end at 7pm on Friday, Russian armed forces chief of staff Valery Gerasimov said.

Aleppo has been under bombardment for months
Image Caption:
Aleppo has been under bombardment for months

He said the extension would “prevent senseless casualties” and called on rebels to use the opportunity to leave Aleppo with their weapons, using two corridors leading out of the city.

Civilians and the wounded would be allowed to leave via six other corridors, the Russian Defence Ministry said.

It comes as Western intelligence officials warned that Russia may launch a final assault on eastern Aleppo as early as this week.

A fleet of eight Russian warships have been dispatched towards the eastern Mediterranean and are expected to arrive as early as Wednesday.

A photo taken from a Norwegian surveillance aircraft shows Russian aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsov in international waters off the coast of Northern Norway
Image Caption:
Admiral Kuznetsov is part of a Russian fleet sailing towards the eastern Mediterranean

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Dmitry Peskov, spokesman for Russian President Vladimir Putin, denied suggestions that an aerial attack would be unleashed once the fleet’s aircraft carrier, the Admiral Kuznetsov, reaches Syrian shores.

Russia and its Syrian allies say they have halted air attacks in Aleppo since 18 October.

Mr Peskov said Mr Putin believes the humanitarian pause should hold, but warned the rebel offensive could prompt a change in that policy.

Vladimir Putin says Russia 'doesn't plan to attack anyone' - 27/10/2016
Russia denies military provocation

On Friday, rebels launched a major assault to break the siege of eastern Aleppo but were met with fierce resistance from regime forces.

The Russian defence ministry claimed the rebels had taken heavy losses during fighting and were unable to break out of the city on their own.

Following the assault, Russian defence minister Sergei Shoigu accused Syrian rebels of shelling residential areas of Aleppo.

The destruction of Aleppo. Pic: Aleppo Media Center
War in Syria: Destruction of Aleppo

He said more than 2,000 militants backed by dozens of tanks and armoured vehicles had launched attacks on living quarters, schools and hospitals in the government-controlled part of the city.

Mr Shoigu claimed the US-led coalition was “failing to act in unison”, adding: “As a result, the prospect of the start of a political settlement and a return of the Syrian people to peaceful life has been postponed indefinitely.” 

The UN estimates between 250,000 and 275,000 civilians are trapped in rebel-held eastern Aleppo.

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