Pause in Aleppo bombing holds into 2nd day as Putin meets EU leaders

Hadi Mustafa Habbush lies on a hospital bed in the rebel-held area of Aleppo, on October 12, 2016 (AFP Photo/Thaer Mohammed)

A pause in Russian and Syrian strikes on Aleppo was holding for a second day Wednesday, ahead of a brief cease-fire aimed at allowing civilians and rebels to quit the devastated city. Moscow announced it would extend an eight-hour truce planned for Thursday to 11 hours and said Syrian and Russian warplanes were giving Aleppo a wide berth. French President François Hollande said he would work with Germany to persuade Russia to adopt a long-lasting truce around Syria's second city. But Russia's cease-fire plan was met with scepticism and the United Nations said it would be insufficient to allow humanitarian aid to reach encircled Aleppo inhabitants.

Russia is periodically trying to mitigate tensions with the West on Aleppo through such initiatives. This is the continuation of war by diplomatic means.

Syria analyst Thomas Pierret of the University of Edinburgh, suggesting the halt in Russian airstrikes was about Moscow "managing international pressure"

Five years of diplomatic initiatives to put an end to Syria's conflict have failed, but over the past week world powers have made new efforts to reach a lasting truce. Hollande and German Chancellor Angela Merkel were to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Berlin later Wednesday to discuss the cease-fire plans. A U.S.-led coalition is bombing jihadists in Syria, including the Islamic State group, and Russia accused member Belgium of killing six civilians in airstrikes in the Aleppo region on Tuesday. Belgium's foreign ministry said it had summoned the Russian ambassador following Russia's claim.

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Besieged rebels

Near Damascus, more than 600 rebels and their families were evacuated Wednesday from a besieged rebel town. It was the latest in a string of evacuation accords allowing armed rebels to flee encircled areas, which Damascus has championed as a way to restore stability.

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