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Syria Suspends Bombing of Aleppo, Allows 10,500 Civilians and 4,500 Children to Escape

( [email protected] ) Dec 09, 2016 03:00 PM EST
More than 10,500 Syrian citizens have fled parts of eastern Aleppo still controlled by rebels in the last 24 hours, including 4,5000 children, the Russian military has announced.
A volunteer carries a Syrian refugee child off an overcrowded dinghy at a beach after the migrants crossed Reuters

More than 10,500 Syrian citizens have fled parts of eastern Aleppo still controlled by rebels in the last 24 hours, including 4,5000 children, the Russian military has announced.

According to Reuters, Russia's RIA news agency quoted Lt. Gen. Sergei Rudskoi of the Russian Armed Forces as saying that the Syrian army had temporarily halted military activity to let civilians escape rebel-held territory. Rudskoi also reported that a total of 1,096 militants had voluntarily left Aleppo, with 953 granted amnesty and the rest are undergoing checks.

While the U.S. welcomed the "indication that something positive could happen," White House spokesman Josh Earnest said "we're going to have to wait and see whether those statements are reflected on the ground.

"Our approach to the situation has been to listen carefully to what the Russians say, but scrutinize their actions," he added.

Syria's civil war, now entering its fifth year, has killed hundreds of thousands of people and displaced millions. According to the Chaldean bishop of Aleppo, Antoine Audo, the Christian population in Syria has been reduced by two thirds, from 1.5 million to only 500,000 today.

The area has been under heavy attack for months, as Syrian forces attempt to take it back from rebel groups. On Friday, the Russian military said that 93 percent of Aleppo is now under the control of the Syrian army.

Meanwhile, a new U.N report released Friday reveals that there are still an estimated 100,000 civilians held in rebel-controlled areas, including about 500 people with urgent medical needs that require urgent evacuation.

"We are gravely concerned about the safety of civilians in Aleppo - those who remain in opposition-controlled areas as well as those who have fled to areas under Government control," reads the report.

Hundreds of men have disappeared upon entering government-controlled areas of the city, according to Rupert Colville, a spokesman for the U.N. High Commissioner of Human Rights.

"While it is difficult to establish the facts in such a fluid and dangerous situation, we have received very worrying allegations that hundreds of men have gone missing after crossing into government-controlled areas," he said in a statement.

According to the government report, men are being separated from women and children and "family members say they lost contact with the men, between the ages of 30 and 50, after they fled opposition-controlled areas of Aleppo around a week or ten days ago."

Many other residents have chosen to stay or are trapped in the remaining few neighborhoods that rebels have held.

Brita Haji Hassan, during a visit to UN officials in Geneva, said 800 people had been killed and up to 3,500 injured in the city in the past four weeks, reports the BBC.

"We demand a safe passage for civilians to leave and an end to the killing, bombing and bloodbath," he said.

Tags : Aleppo, Syria, syrian civil war, ceasefire, Russia, Syria conflict