Russia will not extend 8-hour airstrike pause despite calls for more time

ALEPPO, Syria,   Russia on Wednesday said it would not be extending an 8-hour humanitarian pause of airstrikes on the Syrian city of Aleppo despite calls saying it is not enough time.

The city of Aleppo has been decimated by the 5-year war in Syria. Russia on Wednesday said it would not extend an 8-hour humanitarian pause of airstrikes on the Syrian city of Aleppo, saying the rebels use these pauses to regroup and “obtain reinforcements.” In this image, airstrikes destroyed 18 humanitarian aid trucks — killing at least 20 people in September. File Photo by Omar Haj Kadour/UPI | License Photo

Russia on Tuesday said it stopped airstrikes on the embattled city of Aleppo for 8 hours to allow civilians and rebels to leave the city. Another pause in airstrikes is scheduled for Thursday but Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov said the length of time would not be extended.
Russia, a key ally of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, began carrying out airstrikes in Syria in September 2015. Russia has targeted the Islamic State as well as Syrian rebels who oppose Assad’s regime. Some rebels Russia has attacked are considered moderate forces by the United States.

“The solution here is only possible on the basis of agreements … I rule out the unilateral extension of the humanitarian pause jointly with the government of the Syrian Arab Republic,” Ryabkov told reporters. “We have repeatedly emphasized through different channels that opponents of Bashar Assad exploit the humanitarian pauses to regroup and obtain reinforcements.”

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier on Tuesday said the 8-hour cessation of hostilities in Aleppo by Russia should be the first step towards establishing a long-term cease-fire that will allow more time for aid to reach Aleppo’s residents.

“A few hours of cease-fire on Thursday in and over Aleppo, announced by Moscow, can only be a beginning … Eight hours is far from enough for the urgent necessary access to help besieged people in eastern Aleppo. More is possible, and more is also humane,” Steinmeier said in a statement.

U.S. Department of State spokesman Mark Toner on Tuesday said the pause of airstrikes was “a good thing” but that after months of “near-constant bombing” the move was a “bit too little, too late.”

The United Nations also welcomed the pause of airstrikes but said the length of time was not enough for humanitarian aid to reach Aleppo’s residents, particularly after years of war that has decimated the city.

“We will use whatever pause we have to do whatever we can,” U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric told reporters. “Obviously there is a need for a longer pause to get trucks in.”

By Andrew V. Pestano