Middle East

Pope begs for an end to 'cruel bombing' as dozens die in latest Aleppo blitz

A man reacts on the rubble of damaged buildings after losing relatives to an airstrike in the besieged rebel-held al-Qaterji neighbourhood of Aleppo, Syria October 11, 2016. REUTERS/Abdalrhman Ismail

Pope Francis is calling for an urgent ceasefire in Syria to evacuate civilians from what he called an inhuman assault on the besieged city of Aleppo. The pontiff said he was particularly concerned about children "trapped under the cruel bombardments," which on Tuesday left dozens of people dead, at least five of them children. During his general audience before tens of thousands of people in St Peter's Square on Wednesday, Francis said: "I'm begging with all my strength for those responsible to undertake an immediate ceasefire that is respected at least to give time to evacuate civilians." Activists say bunker-busting bombs were used in the latest Russian-led assault, which also targeted nearby villages.

(A ceasefire is essential) at least for the time necessary to allow for the evacuation of civilians, especially children, who are still trapped by cruel bombardments

Pope Francis

The latest bombardment is said to be the heaviest since the Syrian regime said the attacks would be eased, partly to allow people to leave opposition-held districts. At least 50 civilians were said to have been killed and strikes were reported on a medical centre and a children's playground. Rescuers continued to search for survivors from the latest assault on Wednesday, although video showed they pulled one boy alive from the rubble the night before. Meanwhile, Russian president Vladimir Putin canceled a planned trip to Paris in a row over the violence in Syria. French president François Hollande is among those describing the Aleppo campaign as a war crime.

Silence is taking over Aleppo city. So far no gunshots or air strikes have been heard, since the air strike

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reports a lull in the fighting on Wednesday
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