Russia says it will not bomb Aleppo if rebels do not attack

MOSCOW, Russia said on Monday that an airstrike cease-fire in eastern Aleppo will continue as long as Syrian rebels do not launch further attacks.

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Syrians look at the burning and damaged trucks that were carrying aid after airstrikes destroyed much of the convoy near Aleppo in September. A Russian-backed 10-hour ceasefire in the Syrian city of Aleppo fell apart Friday when mortar rounds struck exit passageways. File Photo by Omar Haj Kadour/UPI | License Photo

During a daily press briefing, Dmitry Peskov, Russian President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman, said Putin “deems a regime in which Russian air forces don’t carry out strikes on eastern Aleppo as reasonable if militants don’t start combat action.”

Russia, a key ally of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, began airstrikes in Syria in September 2015. Russia has targeted the Islamic State as well as Syrian rebels who oppose Assad’s regime, which considers all rebels to be terrorists.

Russia has intermittently stopped airstrikes, citing humanitarian reasons. Russia and Assad’s regime are both accused of committing war crimes due to their at-times indiscriminate bombing in civilian populations, particularly over their alleged bombing of hospitals and schools.

“The humanitarian pause, as such, had a clear time frame, but the cessation of operations of the Russian Air Force will continue,” Peskov said. “If militants do not resort to active offensive operations, aggressive campaigns, then the president considered it expedient to continue this regime, during which the Russian air task force does not deliver strikes against eastern Aleppo.”
Syria has been devastated by a complex civil war in which the Islamic State, the Syrian government and multiple Syrian rebel groups fight for control of territory.

“The ceasefire regime of the Russian air task force continues,” Peskov added. “The decision was made in line with the position assumed by President Putin who said the continuation of the Russian air task force’s ceasefire regime was contingent on the line, to which militants would adhere.”

Last week, Russian Minister of Defense Sergei Shoigu said negotiations between the warring sides in Syria have been postponed indefinitely due to rebel attacks.

By Andrew V. Pestano