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Russia Says Still Holding Off on Aleppo Air Strikes

MOSCOW (AFP) – Russia on Monday said its air force was continuing to hold off on strikes against war-ravaged Aleppo, after rebels snubbed Moscow’s offer to quit Syria’s second city.

“The ceasefire in the operation of the Russian air force is continuing,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told journalists.

Russia has halted air strikes on rebel-held eastern Aleppo since October 18, after international condemnation over its ferocious bombardment of the city.

President Vladimir Putin ordered an additional 10-hour “humanitarian pause” on Friday that saw Syrian forces on the ground halt fire to allow rebels and civilians to quit Aleppo.

But rebels scorned the offer to leave with their weapons, and civilians stayed put in the devastated eastern part of the city.

Peskov said that the decision by Putin to keep holding fire remained dependent on rebels in the city refraining from any concerted attacks on government-held territory.

“If the rebels don’t resort to offensive actions, to a campaign of aggression, then the president considered it expedient for now to continue the regime, under which the Russian air force does not strike eastern Aleppo,” he said.

Russia is meanwhile beefing up its firepower in the Mediterranean Sea off Syria by dispatching its only aircraft carrier and warships to bolster its forces.

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