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The Latest: US says Aleppo pause 'too little, too late'

October 17, 2016 - 6:01 PM

BEIRUT - The Latest on the developments in Syria's civil war (all times local):

1 a.m.

A U.S. State Department spokesman says an eight-hour pause in attacks by Russian and Syrian forces on rebel-held eastern districts of Aleppo "would be a good thing," but he cautions that "it's a bit too little, too late."

Spokesman Mark Toner, speaking to reporters in Washington, said the people of Aleppo "have been subjected to near constant bombardment and air strikes" that has killed many civilians and levelled much of the city's civilian infrastructure. He said the goal is "to starve out and to drive out the opposition and civilians who've held on there for so long."

The Russian and Syrian militaries say they will observe a "humanitarian pause" between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. on Oct. 20 to allow civilians and militants safe passage out of the city.


11:30 p.m.

Russia's U.N. ambassador says military officers from the U.S. and Russia were meeting experts from Saudia Arabia, Turkey and Qatar to work out ways to separate Syria's moderate opposition from former al-Qaida-linked fighters in rebel-held eastern Aleppo.

Vitaly Churkin told reporters that the meeting was to be held Monday as a follow-up to Saturday's talks in Lausanne, Switzerland where U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov were joined by representatives of several countries with influence on moderate opposition groups.

He said Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Qatar "did express their intention to work with those moderate opposition groups" to separate them from the Nusra Front extremists now called the Fatah al-Sham Front.

If they do, Churkin said, either the Nusra fighters will leave the city "or they will have to be defeated."

At Lausanne, Churkin said, "the understanding" was that the moderate opposition and the Syrian government will then enter into a cease-fire to prevent further loss of life and suffering.


8:25 p.m.

The United Nations says it would welcome any pause in fighting in the besieged city of Aleppo, after Russian media reported that an official of Russia's military general staff said a "humanitarian pause" in hostilities was being prepared.

U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric told reporters at U.N. headquarters in New York Monday that he has no confirmation of the announcement that Russian and Syrian forces are preparing an eight-hour "humanitarian pause" for Aleppo on Thursday.

But Dujarric said that "any lessening of the violence, lessening of the fighting, any pause that's actually implemented would be very much welcomed."

He noted the United Nations has been calling for at least a 48-hour cessation of hostilities to deliver desperately needed humanitarian aid.

"We will use whatever pause we have to do whatever we can," Dujarric said. "Obviously there is a need for a longer pause to get trucks in."


6:40 p.m.

An official of Russia's military general staff says Russian and Syrian forces are preparing a "humanitarian pause" for the besieged city of Aleppo on Thursday.

Lt. Gen. Sergei Rudskoi said Monday that Russian and Syrian forces will halt their fighting from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Oct. 20 in order to allow civilians and rebels safe passage out of the city as well as for the evacuation of the sick and wounded.

He said there will be two corridors by which people can leave the city.


3:52 p.m.

Syrian opposition monitoring groups say an airstrike on a rebel-held village in northern Syria has killed at least 23 people.

The activists said the attack on the village of Oweijel in the northern province of Aleppo occurred on Monday.

The Local Coordination Committees said 30 people were killed and dozens wounded when Russian warplanes attacked the village. The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights put the death toll at 23, and said several others were missing.

The northern province of Aleppo has been the centre of violence in Syria over the past week, with hundreds of people killed in rebel-held areas by Russian and government airstrikes.


3:20 p.m.

A Syrian opposition activist group and a jihadi official say a U.S.-led coalition drone has struck a car in the northwestern city of Idlib, killing all inside.

It was not immediately clear who was in the vehicle but such attacks have previously targeted officials with al-Qaida's affiliate in Syria, known as Fatah al-Sham Front.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Monday's attack targeted a faction commander.

An official with Fatah al-Sham Front, formerly known as Nusra Front, said all those in the car were "martyred." The man, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media, said it was not clear if members of his group were targeted.

Earlier this month, a drone attack killed top al-Qaida official Ahmed Salama Mabrouk.


1:55 p.m.

Syrian opposition activists are reporting that airstrikes on a rebel-held, eastern neighbourhood in the city of Aleppo have killed at least 13 people, including children.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says the airstrikes hit the Marjeh neighbourhood on Monday and that five children were among the casualties.

The Aleppo Media Center, an activist collective, also reported the airstrikes and gave the same death toll. It says 11 of the victims have the same family name of Qabs and ranged in age from a month-and-a-half-old baby girl and a 25-year-old man.

Rebel-held parts of Aleppo have been subjected to the worst aerial attacks since a cease-fire brokered by the U.S. and Russia collapsed in September. The air raids have killed hundreds, wounded many others and demolishing entire buildings.


10 a.m.

A top aide of Syrian President Bashar Assad has visited Cairo to co-ordinate with Egypt in the fight against "terrorism" in the region.

Syria's state news agency reported on Monday that Maj. Gen. Ali Mamlouk, head of the National Security Bureau, led a delegation that visited Egypt the day before.

SANA says the Syrians met with top intelligence officials, including deputy chief of Egypt's intelligence agency. It says both sides agreed on "co-ordinating political standpoints" and strengthening the "co-operation in fighting terrorism."

Both countries are fighting extremists, including members of the Islamic State group. Egypt and Syria also have bad relations with Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Egypt's pro-government Sada al-Balad and other news websites reported Sunday that six Syrians arrived on a private jet Sunday from Damascus.


This version has been corrected to reflect that Lt. Gen. Sergei Rudskoi is an official in the Russian General Staff, not the head of the general staff.

News from © The Associated Press, 2016
The Associated Press

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