Russia, Syria halt Aleppo airstrikes ahead of 8-hour 'humanitarian pause'

Members of the Syrian Civil Defence search for victims amid the rubble of a destroyed building in Aleppo, on October 17, 2016 (AFP Photo/Karam al-Masri)

Russian and Syrian warplanes halted their airstrikes on Syria's besieged city of Aleppo on Tuesday in preparation for a temporary pause in the military push that Moscow has announced for later in the week, the Russian defense minister said. According to Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, the halt in the strikes should help pave the way for militants to leave the rebel-held eastern parts of the contested city. It comes a day after Russia said there would be an eight-hour "humanitarian pause" in the battered city on Thursday, a move welcomed by the United Nations and the European Union, which nevertheless said the cease-fire needed to be longer to allow the delivery of aid.

The early halting of airstrikes is necessary to declare a humanitarian pause. … It will … guarantee a safe exit of civilians.

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu

Russian President Vladimir Putin's latest moves almost certainly will widen divisions in the EU on whether to impose harsher penalties on Moscow. The West has expressed increasing alarm at the situation in Aleppo, saying the ferocious Russian-backed onslaught on the rebel-held east could amount to a war crime. EU leaders are supposed to rethink their Russia policy at a Brussels summit beginning Thursday, but few are counting on a united stand.

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Northern Aleppo offensive (February 2016)

The Northern Aleppo offensive(February 2016) refers to a military operation launched northwest of Aleppo in early February 2016 by the Syrian Arab Army and its allies. The offensive successfully broke the three-year rebel siege of the Shi'ite towns of Nubl and Al-Zahraa, effectively cutting off the main supply route of the rebels from Turkey.

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