ALEPPO, Syria, Oct. 18 (UPI) — Russia said Tuesday morning it stopped airstrikes targeting Aleppo, Syria, at the start of an eight-hour humanitarian pause to allow civilians and rebels to leave the city.
Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu said the temporary cease-fire would guarantee “security of exit via six corridors for civilians and preparing for evacuation of those ill and wounded from the eastern part of Aleppo.”
“We turn to the leadership of the countries having influence on the armed units in the eastern part of Aleppo with a proposal to convince their leaders to stop combat actions and leave the city,” he said.
Two more corridors of exit will be available to rebel combatants.
Another eight-hour stoppage in airstrikes, for purposes of evacuation and for humanitarian aid to be delivered to the city, is scheduled for Thursday. The United Nations has said a 12-hour window is required to deliver humanitarian aid to residents, though.
Tuesday’s cease-fire is unilateral, with no reciprocity demanded from any of the groups fighting on the rebel side and no evidence Russia and Syria notified Britain or the United States prior to their announcement. The halt in airstrikes comes after Britain and the United States said they were considering additional sanctions against Russia for its actions in Aleppo.
British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said more than 10,000 armed rebels, in opposition to the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, are in Aleppo. Another 300,000 residents remain as well, and their lack of food, water and medicine was described by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry as “the largest humanitarian disaster since World War II.” He added that crimes against humanity are a daily occurrence in the beleaguered city, and that the tragedy “could stop tomorrow morning” if Russia and the Syrian government acted with decency.