October 18, 2016 - 2:36 PM
BEIRUT - The Latest on the developments in the Syrian civil war (all times local):
Russia has introduced a draft statement to the Security Council calling on countries with influence on Syrian opposition groups to intensify efforts to separate moderate opposition forces from terrorist entities in besieged eastern Aleppo.
Russia's U.N. Ambassador Vitaly Churkin said Tuesday that the statement, which must now be approved by the 15-member council, also calls on all parties to prevent material and financial support from reaching groups designated as terrorists by the Security Council.
Churkin said that Russia and Syria have halted air strikes on eastern Aleppo in preparation for an eight-hour humanitarian pause on Thursday.
"I think what we're trying to do now is more than just one humanitarian pause, it's a way to try to find a radical turn for the better for the people of eastern Aleppo," Churkin said.
The Human Rights Council says it will hold an extraordinary session this week to discuss the worsening situation in the Syrian city of Aleppo.
The UN-backed council, following a request by Britain on behalf of the U.S., Saudi Arabia, Turkey, France, Germany and others, will hold the special session on Friday.
A letter calling for the meeting also cites the "failure" of President Bashar Assad's "regime and its allies to fulfil their human rights commitments."
The 47-member council held the last of its regularly scheduled meetings this year in September, and it can convene special sessions if called by one-third of them.
A United Nations spokesman says that despite a planned "humanitarian pause" in the bombing of Aleppo, the U.N. lacks the time and sufficient safety assurances to begin providing aid to the besieged city.
Moscow has announced an eight hour "humanitarian pause" on Thursday to allow civilians and militants safe passage out of the city.
Stephane Dujarric said Tuesday that humanitarian workers needed a pause of at least 48 hours in order to send aid convoys into the area.
"The U.N. and its partners have been and remain ready to proceed with urgent medical evacuation, provide urgent lifesaving assistance when all security assurances are provided," Dujarric said. "We don't have the security guarantees that we need right now."
The wife of Syrian President Bashar Assad has told a Russian TV station that she has declined offers to leave Syria in return for safety and financial security for her and her children earlier on in the war.
Asma Assad, 41, was speaking to Russia 24, a Moscow-based state-run television channel. It is her first interview with international media since the war broke out in Syria in 2011.
She said those who made the offers for her to "run from Syria" were not Syrians, but she didn't elaborate. Assad called the offers "foolish" and a "deliberate attempt to shatter people's confidence" in her husband.
Assad said everyone in Syria is at risk because of the war. But she added: "I refuse to live in fear."
Hezbollah is holding a funeral for one of its commanders who was killed in Syria.
Tuesday's funeral for Hatem Hamadeh, also known as Haj Alaa, was held in the group's stronghold south of Beirut.
Hezbollah sent thousands of fighters to Syria to back Syrian President Bashar Assad's forces. The group has lost more than 1,000 fighters since openly joining the battle in Syria three years ago.
The group did not say when or where Hamadeh was killed but Hezbollah has been active in the battle of the northern Syrian city of Aleppo that has witnessed some of the worst fighting in recent weeks since Syria's crisis began in 2011.
Hamadeh's coffin was covered with the group's yellow flag and was placed next to another fighter killed in Syria, Jalal al-Afi.
The Syrian army command says anyone who tries to cross the border from Iraq into Syria will be faced with force.
The command said Tuesday it believed the United States and Saudi Arabia would try to guarantee safe passages for fighters of the Islamic State group fleeing from the northern Iraqi city of Mosul to head to Syria.
Iraqi government and Kurdish forces, backed by U.S.-led coalition air and ground support, launched co-ordinated military operations Monday to wrest Mosul from IS. There have been reports that a route leading to Syria was left open for IS fighters who want to flee.
IS controls parts of Syria and Iraq and the extremists have been crossing between the two counties since they declared a self-styled caliphate in parts of Iraq and Syria in June 2014.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel says sanctions against Russia over its actions in Syria should remain an option.
Merkel says she and France's President Francois Hollande will discuss Syria with Russian President Vladimir Putin on the sidelines of a planned meeting on Ukraine in Berlin on Wednesday, but cautioned against expecting "miracles."
Both leaders have been sharply critical of Russia's support for the forces of Syrian President Bashar Assad.
Merkel said on Tuesday that she is "of the opinion that no options, including that of sanctions, can be taken off the table in view of the situation, but the priority is that we look at lessening people's suffering in some way, and that will be an issue tomorrow."
A U.N. official says Russia has communicated plans for a total of three eight-hour pauses in military actions in rebel-held parts of the Syrian city of Aleppo over "consecutive days" this week.
Spokesman Jens Laerke of the U.N. humanitarian co-ordinator OCHA says the agency needs assurances from all sides that the fighting will definitively stop before it can provide humanitarian assistance to Aleppo, ship in aid and evacuate the sick and the wounded.
Russia has so far only announced an 8-hour pause on Thursday.
Moscow said that Russian and Syrian airstrikes were halted in eastern, rebel-held parts of Aleppo on Tuesday in preparation for the pause. Laerke specified that it would be up to Russia to elaborate on its plans.
He says the U.N. was not told in advance of the Russian announcement.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan says his country is engaged in talks with the U.S.-led coalition about participating in an operation to oust the Islamic State militants from their stronghold in Raqqa, Syria.
Erdogan told a group of academicians on Tuesday that Turkey had told U.S. officials that it was willing to take part in such an offensive.
The Islamic State group has proclaimed the city of Raqqa as the seat of its self-styled Islamic caliphate.
Erdogan says Turkey would "participate in this operation" and that "these discussions are now taking place."
The Turkish leader also says the Turkish-backed Syrian opposition fighters, who have taken the key towns of Jarablus, al-Rai and Dabiq in Syria, are now advancing further south toward the IS-held town of al-Bab.
He hinted at possible military action against Syrian Kurdish militia if they did not meet a promise to leave the town of Manbij, which they recently re-took from the IS militants.
Turkey sent troops and tanks into northern Syria to help Syrian opposition fighters clear a border area of the IS militants and curb Syrian Kurdish militia from making territorial gains.
Syrian activists say warplanes have struck two rebel-held villages in the northern Aleppo province shortly after Russian and Syrian airstrikes were halted against rebel-held neighbourhoods in the city of Aleppo.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and Ibrahim Alhaj, a spokesman for the Civil Defence, say that Tuesday's airstrikes hit villages of Anadan and Daret Azzehe.
They had no immediate word on casualties. Aleppo is the capital of the province with the same name.
Earlier on Tuesday, Russia's defence minister said Russian and Syrian warplanes halted their airstrikes on the city of Aleppo in preparation for a temporary eight-hour pause in offensive operations that Moscow has announced for later in the week.
Meanwhile, Syria's state news agency SANA says rebels shelled two government-held western neighbourhoods of the city of Aleppo, killing a woman and wounding three people.
Russia has announced that Russian and Syrian warplanes are halting airstrikes on the besieged city of Aleppo.
Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu says the airstrikes were suspended starting from 10 a.m. on Tuesday. He says the suspension is intended to prepare for the opening of humanitarian corridors for the rebels to leave Aleppo.
Russia says its forces and the Syrian army will observe a "humanitarian pause" between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. on Thursday, to allow civilians and militants safe passage out of the city. At that time, Syrian rebels, including al-Qaida militants, as well as the wounded and the sick will be allowed to leave to the neighbouring rebel-held province of Idlib.
Shoigu urged the countries wielding influence with the rebels in Aleppo to persuade them to leave the city.
News from © The Associated Press, 2016