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Tens of thousands flee Aleppo siege

A humanitarian crisis has mounted in Syria's second city as the Assad regime looks set for a major offensive. Turkey's prime minister warned global leaders that though 70,000 fled, far more people remained trapped.

Tens of thousands of Syrians are said to have fled their homes on Thursday as forces loyal to the regime of President Bashar al-Assad, backed by Moscow, appeared to be preparing to encircle Aleppo. "It feels like a siege of Aleppo is about to begin," said aid group Mercy Corps, adding that fighting had cut off the main humanitarian route into Syria's second city.

"The situation in the north countryside of Aleppo is catastrophic," said a local journalist. "Civilians are now besieged from three sides and have just one road to the Turkish territories," said Maamoun al-Khateeb, adding that while Assad's forces pressed on the city from the south, "Islamic State" (IS) terrorists threatened from the east and Kurdish peshmerga fighters surrounded the way to the west.

Once a bustling business center, Aleppo has been divided between rebels in the east and government control in the west since mid-2012.

Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu warned that up to 70,000 people were headed towards his country's frontier, and that a further 300,000 were trapped in the city without assistance as government troops backed by Russian airstrikes cut off the rebels' supply line.

Davutoglu was speaking from an international donors' conference aimed at easing the struggle of the millions of Syrians affected by the bloody five-year civil war.

The London gathering saw some $10 billion (8.92 billion euros) raised mere hours after UN-brokered peace talks broke down in Geneva after the umbrella group for the opposition said it would not talk with the Assad regime until the bombardment was stopped.

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'Ceasefire an essential precondition for meaningful peace talks'

es/gsw (AFP, AP)

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