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Syria’s offensive in Aleppo has ended: Russia UN envoy

Syrian government forces stand atop a damaged tank near Umayyad mosque, in the government-controlled area of Aleppo, during a media tour, Syria on December 13, 2016. (Photos by Reuters)

Russia has announced that the Syrian government’s military operations to free the city of Aleppo have come to an end.

"Over the last hour we have received information that the military activities in east Aleppo have stopped, it has stopped," said Russia's UN Ambassador Vitaly Churkin during a UN Security Council meeting.

"The Syrian government has established control over east Aleppo, so the stage of practical humanitarian actions begins,” he added.

He noted that the militants within the city will start to leave “within hours” and that there is no need for civilians to leave their homes.

“This very difficult chapter related to the situation in eastern Aleppo has ended," he said. "Let's hope that this, indeed, will be a pre-condition for establishing the political efforts, re-launching of negotiations," he added.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon hailed the event, noting that the global body fully supports such efforts and stands ready to oversee an agreement.

"We remind all parties of their obligations under international humanitarian law: to prioritize the safe passage of civilians out of eastern Aleppo and to ensure that those who have surrendered or been captured are treated humanely and in line with international law," he added.

Syria rejects targeting Aleppo civilians

During the session -- called by the US, France and Britain -- Ban said that the Syrian government, Russia and their allies are determined to end the war through a total military victory. However, Churkin dismissed such claims, stressing that they were all "propaganda, disinformation and psychological" warfare.

The US, Britain and France also claimed that the Syrian government targeted civilians in eastern Aleppo, with the US’s UN Ambassador Samantha Power accusing Syrian forces of killing some 80 civilians in Aleppo over the past 24 hours.

Syrian Ambassador to the UN Bashar al-Jaafari denied all the allegations and hailed the liberation of the city. “Aleppo has been liberated from terrorists and those who toyed with terrorism,” he said. “Aleppo has returned to the nation,” he added. 

Less than a month ago, the Syrian army started a wholesale push to drive the militants out of their stronghold in the city’s eastern side, making great strides in the process.

Since March 2011, Syria has been hit by militancy it blames on some Western states and their regional allies. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and UN have put the death toll from the Syria conflict at more than 300,000 and 400,000, respectively. This is while the UN has stopped its official casualty count in Syria, citing its inability to verify the figures it receives from various sources.

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