Russian & Syrian military to organize 8-hour ‘humanitarian pause’ in Aleppo on Oct. 20

FILE PHOTO © Abdalrhman Ismail
Russia is ready to cease operations in Aleppo at any moment to allow medics access to the Syrian city and ensure the evacuation of injured civilians, the General Staff said, adding that it has scheduled a humanitarian pause for Thursday.

"We are prepared to cease fire and ensure the unhampered access of medical personnel to the city and ensure the evacuation of the injured and sick as soon as we get a request from humanitarian organizations,” Sergey Rudskoy, chief of the main operations directorate of Russia's General Staff, told the media.

According to Rudskoy, Moscow is ready “to discuss any initiatives and proposals for a settlement in Aleppo."

Russia and Syria will start carrying out a ‘humanitarian pause’ in Aleppo on Thursday, October 20, to allow passage to civilians and the withdrawal of militants from the city, he said.

The Russian and Syrian forces will refrain from military activity in Aleppo starting from 8am till 4pm local time on Thursday, the official added.

"We understand that the coordination of all issues can a take long time. Therefore, we decided not to delay a decision and initiate a ‘humanitarian pause,’ primarily for the free passage of civilians, the evacuation of the sick and wounded, as well as the withdrawal of fighters,” Rudskoy explained.

The US State Department said it’s a “good thing” that Russia and Syria will suspend military activity in Aleppo on Thursday.

But according to State Department spokesman Mark Toner, Moscow’s initiative was “too little, too late.”

The United Nations has welcomed the announcement of the “humanitarian pause” in Syria’s largest city, according to spokesman Stephane Dujarric.

“Any lessening of the violence, lessening of the fighting, any pause that's actually implemented would be very much welcomed,” Dujarric told reporters at the UN headquarters in New York.

The spokesman added that that UN had called for a 48-hour cessation of hostilities to deliver humanitarian aid to Aleppo.

“We will use whatever pause we have to do whatever we can. Obviously there is a need for a longer pause to get trucks in,” he said.

EU foreign affairs chief Federica Mogherini has called Russia’s announcement of a humanitarian pause a “positive step.”

"It can be a start. There are discussions ongoing if the eight hours are enough for the convoys to deliver the aid to east Aleppo or not," Mogherini said.

Rudskoy addressed “the leaders of illegal armed groups and [their] sponsors,” saying that they will be able to leave eastern Aleppo unhampered during the pause.

Two corridors – one running along the Castello Road and the other in the souq-market area in the south of the city – will be created for the withdrawal of the militants, the official said.

Six more humanitarian corridors will be opened for the evacuation of civilians from Aleppo, he added.

According to officials, leaflets will be used to inform the population and the militants about the humanitarian pause.

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"We call upon the leadership of the militants to defuse approaches to humanitarian corridors and to enable the population to evacuate northeastern Aleppo. All civilians who leave the city are guaranteed full security, medical and other assistance, as well as temporary shelter. In addition, the people will be provided with hot meals and basic necessities," Rudskoy said.

Meanwhile, Russia has no plans to begin a unilateral ceasefire in Aleppo as it would “make no sense” in the current situation, Rudskoy stressed.

“According to the information from several sources, the supply of modern weaponry, including US-made TOW anti-tank missile launchers, continues to the militants,” he said.

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A ceasefire would only provide “another break for the terrorists, allow them to regroup and restore combat capability,” the official explained.