Syria conflict: Aleppo exodus growing, says Russia

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The exodus from rebel-held, eastern parts of Aleppo is growing, Russia says, amid a push by the Syrian army to regain control of the whole city.

About 50,000 civilians have fled the rebel enclave over the past two days, a Russian defence spokesman said.

He added that more than 1,000 rebels had laid down their arms as pro-government forces close in.

Meanwhile Western powers have renewed calls for Syria and its ally, Russia, to allow people to leave Aleppo.

The statement came at a meeting of officials from the US, Europe, and some Arab countries.

US Secretary of State John Kerry, who attended the talks in Paris, said: “Russia and [Syrian President] Assad have a moment where they are in a dominant position to show a little grace.”

Earlier Russian defence ministry spokesman Gen Igor Konashenkov said Syrian troops had suspended their offensive to allow the evacuation of civilians.

“People are moving in a constant stream through humanitarian corridors into the government-controlled districts,” he told reporters.

He said 30,000 people had left on Friday and 20,000 so far on Saturday.

But latest reports from the city say the rebel enclave is being hit by repeated air strikes.

The Russian military says the Syrian government now controls 93% of Aleppo.

The intensification in fighting in recent weeks has forced tens of thousands to seek refuge in government-controlled territory.

On Friday the UN estimated that up to 100,000 people had been squeezed into an “ever-shrinking” rebel pocket in eastern Aleppo with little or no access to food or medical care.

Syria’s government has said it is ready to resume dialogue with the opposition but without “external intervention or preconditions”.

Aleppo was once Syria’s largest city and its commercial and industrial hub before the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad began in 2011.

It has been divided in roughly two since mid-2012. But in the past year, Syrian troops broke the deadlock with the help of Iranian-backed militias and Russian air strikes.

Elsewhere in Syria, militants from the so-called Islamic State group have been advancing on Syrian government positions in the countryside around the ancient city of Palmyra.

Credit: BBC

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