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Russia announces brief Aleppo truce as EU warns of war crimes

AFP  |  Aleppo 

today announced an eight-hour "humanitarian" ceasefire in Aleppo later this week, as the EU warned that the Syrian regime's Moscow-backed assault on the city could amount to war crimes.

The United Nations and European Union welcomed the announcement, but said the planned pause in fighting needed to be longer to allow the delivery of humanitarian aid.

In the latest violence, dozens of civilians including 12 members of the same family were killed in heavy bombardment of rebel-held eastern sectors of the embattled city, a monitoring group said.

"We have taken a decision not to waste time and to introduce 'humanitarian pauses', mainly for the free passage of civilians, evacuation of the sick and wounded and withdrawal of fighters," senior Russian military officer Sergei Rudskoi told a press briefing in Moscow.

The ceasefire would run from 0800 to 1600 local time (0500 GMT to 1300 GMT) "in the area of Aleppo", Rudskoi said.

"During this period the Russian air force and Syrian government troops will halt air strikes and firing from any other types of weapons."

Russia's announcement, to which there was no immediate reaction from rebels, came as the EU condemned the ferocious air war waged on Aleppo over the past three weeks.

"Since the beginning of the offensive by the regime and its allies, notably Russia, the intensity and scale of the aerial bombardment of eastern Aleppo is clearly disproportionate," EU foreign ministers said in Luxembourg.

"The deliberate targeting of hospitals, medical personnel, schools and essential infrastructure, as well as the use of barrel bombs, cluster bombs, and chemical weapons, constitute a catastrophic escalation of the conflict... And may amount to war crimes," they said in a statement.

The EU ministers said they would also press ahead with extending sanctions against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's regime, but stopped short of threatening measures against

EU foreign affairs chief Federica Mogherini called Moscow's announcement "positive" but not long enough to allow humanitarian aid to reach the besieged city.

"It can be a start... For sure it is a positive step," she told reporters at the close of the ministerial meeting in Luxembourg.

"The latest assessment from the aid agencies (however) is that 12 hours is needed so work is needed to find common ground," she added.

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Mon, October 17 2016. 23:28 IST