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25 Oct, 2016 02:34

No Russian or Syrian airstrikes on Aleppo for 7 days – Moscow

Aleppo has not seen any Russian or Syrian air raids for a week, creating the necessary conditions for a humanitarian pause to work, the Russian Ministry of Defense said, adding that terrorists in the eastern part of the city still hold civilians hostage.

“Russian Aerospace Forces and the Syrian Air Force have completely ceased flights over Aleppo during the last seven days,” Defense Ministry spokesman Major-General Igor Konashenkov said Tuesday, adding that their jets “do not approach or conduct strikes” anywhere in the vicinity of the city.

According to the Defense Ministry spokesman, 48 women and children left the rebel-held area on Monday.

“Late Monday, October 24, 48 women and children accompanied by officers of the Russian reconciliation center and Syrian authorities left eastern Aleppo through [the] humanitarian corridor. They have been provided with the necessary medical aid, hot meals, and night accommodation,” Konashenkov added.

The spokesman added that civilians can use six humanitarian corridors to leave the city. They will then be treated at reception centers and offered first aid and hot food.

READ MORE: Plan B: US considered arming Syrian rebels against Russian planes & artillery, report says

Last week, Damascus and Moscow stopped carrying out airstrikes in eastern Aleppo and opened a number of humanitarian corridors for those wishing to escape the areas of the city controlled by terrorists and rebels, in the hope that the temporary truce would lead to a complete ceasefire.

Despite the humanitarian pause having been prolonged several times, militants repeatedly sabotaged the ceasefire efforts, shelling humanitarian corridors and killing civilians.

As people remain trapped in eastern Aleppo, the Syrian branch of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) called on ground forces to facilitate safe passage for civilians out of the rebel-held areas.

In a series of tweets, the NGO confirmed it has been on standby to assist the wounded since Thursday.

“Sadly, we couldn’t proceed with the evacuation as a lack of security guarantees on the ground meant we couldn’t ensure patients’ safety,” ICRC tweeted. “Our team on the ground in #Aleppo stands ready to help. For the sake of the people, let us respond before it’s too late.”

For the humanitarian pause to work, the US must fulfill its promise and separate the so-called moderate rebels from hardcore jihadists in Aleppo, a Kremlin spokesperson reiterated on Monday.

“All these days, checkpoints continued to be shelled, terrorist groups attacked main routes where humanitarian supplies could be delivered, primarily Castello,” Dmitry Peskov told journalists.

“All of this, of course, makes it extremely difficult, if not impossible, to form humanitarian convoys. Therefore, since the separation of terrorist groups from the so-called moderate opposition has not taken place, one can wonder whether it is possible at all," he added.

On the diplomatic front, the need to separate the rebels from jihadists was discussed by Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in a phone conversation with his American counterpart John Kerry.

“Sergey Lavrov pointed out that illegal armed formations holding the eastern part of Aleppo responded to the introduction by the Syrian authorities of the humanitarian pause by opening fire on civilians trying to leave the city, and new attacks,” the ministry statement reads.

Yet hope that civilians will be able to leave the besieged neighborhoods of Aleppo still continues. On Monday, the Syria's air force dropped leaflets in eastern Aleppo demanding that terrorists surrender or leave the city.

“This is your last chance. If you don’t quickly leave these areas, you will be destroyed. We have left you a safe corridor. Hurry up with a decision, save yourselves. You know that everybody has left you, nobody’s here to help you,” the leaflets say, according to Sputnik's source on the ground.

Russia has been assisting the Syrian army in fighting Al-Nusra Front terrorists in eastern Aleppo, which has become the militants’ stronghold in Syria. However, the West has blamed Moscow and Damascus for civilian casualties and suffering in the area, while turning a blind eye on atrocities caused by jihadists.