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Russia prolongs ceasefire in Syria’s Aleppo

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu (Photo by Reuters)

Russia says it has extended by 24 hours a humanitarian pause, which was scheduled to last a few hours in Syria’s embattled city of Aleppo.

On the order of Russian President Vladimir Putin, “a decision was made to extend the humanitarian pause by 24 hours,” Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said in a statement released on Thursday.

The initial 11-hour pause took effect at 0500 GMT on Thursday in a bid to allow civilians and foreign-sponsored militants to quit the areas they are controlling in Aleppo.

Shoigu did not elaborate on when the extended cessation of hostilities would end in Aleppo, but the United Nations said it had received a pledge from Moscow to extend it until the weekend.

“They (the Russians) have said 11 hours per day and four days from today, Thursday. We hope it can be four days from tomorrow Friday. They are considering that additional day,” said the UN Syria humanitarian advisor, Jan Egeland.

Elsewhere in his remarks, Egeland expressed hope that the first sick and wounded would be transferred out of the eastern parts on Friday to government-held western Aleppo or militant-held Idlib, according to their choice.

UN Syria humanitarian advisor, Jan Egeland (Photo by AFP)

“We believe we now have all of the green lights that we need both from the Russians and the government and from the armed opposition groups” to begin evacuations, Egeland said.

He further noted that the operation would be organized by the UN, the World Health Organization, Red Cross, and Red Crescent through help from non-governmental organizations.

Reports say that UN aid convoys are ready to move from western Aleppo and from Turkey.

UN Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura estimates that there are perhaps 6,000-7,000 militants and 275,000 civilians in eastern Aleppo.

Terrorists attack Aleppo neighborhood

In another development on Thursday, AFP reported gunfire and artillery exchanges around a crossing point near the militant-controlled Bustan al-Qasr district of Aleppo shortly after the pause began.

Syria’s SANA news agency said terrorist groups had targeted the area with rockets, machine gun and sniper fire “in an attempt to hinder the humanitarian pause.”

Aleppo, Syria’s second largest city, remains divided between government forces in the west and foreign-backed terrorists in the east, making it a frontline battleground.

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