Russia announces Aleppo truce as EU warns of 'war crimes'
Karam al-Masri and Maya Gebeily, AFP
October 18, 2016, 3:30 pm TWN
ALEPPO -- Russia has announced an eight-hour "humanitarian" ceasefire in Aleppo later this week, as the EU warned that the Syrian regime's Moscow-backed assault on the city could amount to a war crime.
The United Nations and European Union welcomed the announcement, but said Thursday's planned pause in fighting needed to be longer to allow the delivery of humanitarian aid.
Meanwhile, dozens of civilians including 12 members of the same family were killed in heavy bombardment of rebel-held eastern sectors of the embattled city on Monday, a monitoring group said.
"We have taken a decision not to waste time and to introduce 'humanitarian pauses', mainly for the free passage of civilians, evacuation of the sick and wounded and withdrawal of fighters," senior Russian military officer Sergei Rudskoi said in Moscow.
The truce would run from 0800 to 1600 local time (0500 GMT to 1300 GMT) "in the area of Aleppo", Rudskoi said.
"During this period the Russian air force and Syrian government troops will halt air strikes and firing from any other types of weapons."
Russia's ambassador to the UN Vitaly Churkin also announced that Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey had agreed to participate in talks with the US and Russia to try to separate moderate and extremist opposition in Aleppo and boost hopes of prolonging the truce.
The announcements came as EU foreign ministers condemned the ferocious air war waged on Aleppo over the past three weeks.
"Since the beginning of the offensive by the regime and its allies, notably Russia, the intensity and scale of the aerial bombardment of eastern Aleppo is clearly disproportionate," a statement said.
"The deliberate targeting of hospitals, medical personnel, schools and essential infrastructure, as well as the use of barrel bombs, cluster bombs, and chemical weapons, constitute a catastrophic escalation of the conflict... and may amount to war crimes," they added.