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UN General Assembly demands immediate end to attacks in Syria

The UN General Assembly has demanded a ceasefire in Syria after the Security Council failed to pass a similar resolution. Syrian government warplanes have continued pounding remaining rebel-held districts in Aleppo.

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Hundreds missing after fleeing eastern Aleppo, UN says – "Der Spiegel" correspondent Christoph Reuter in Beirut

The Syrian army and its allies pushed forward with an offensive on Friday to retake all of Aleppo's opposition-held east. Airstrikes resumed in the besieged city after the government briefly halted strikes on Thursday night, although shelling did not cease.

"The advance is going according to plan and is sometimes faster than expected," a Syrian military source told Reuters news agency. The source added that the Syrian army has recaptured about 85 percent of rebel-held territory in Aleppo.

Earlier on Friday, the UN human rights office expressed concern for hundreds of men from eastern Aleppo who reportedly vanished after crossing into government-controlled areas. There are an estimated 100,000 civilians left in neighborhoods still under rebel control, including 500 in need of urgent medical evacuation.

The operation is bringing Syrian President Bashar al-Assad closer to victory than at any point in the bloody, five-year conflict that has killed more than 300,000 people and made more than half of Syrian citizens homeless.

UN: 'Stop the carnage'

A strong majority of the United Nations General Assembly voted to pass a resolution on Friday that demanded an immediate cessation of hostilities in Syria and urgent humanitarian aid access.

A total of 122 to 13 in the 193-nation body voted to pass the motion, with Russia, Iran and China voting against it. General Assembly resolutions are nonbinding but hold political weight. Both Iran and Russia have been backing Assad's troops in the fight to push out rebels from Aleppo.

"This is a vote to stand up and tell Russia and Assad to stop the carnage," US Ambassador Samantha Power told the assembly ahead of the vote. "This is a vote to defend the bedrock principles of how states should act, even in war."

The move comes days after the UN Security Council failed to adopt a similar ceasefire resolution when China and Russia vetoed it.

New EU sanctions

The European Union announced on Friday it would introduce additional sanctions over the Syrian government's offensive on Aleppo.

"The EU will act swiftly ... with the aim of imposing further restrictive measures against Syria targeting Syrian individuals and entities supporting the regime as long as the repression continues," the bloc's top diplomat Federica Mogherini said in a statement.

British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson also issued strong words to Assad on Friday, saying that if the city fell to the Syrian president's forces in Aleppo, "it will assuredly be a victory that turns to ashes."

"Surely to goodness there can be no lasting peace in Syria if that peace is simply reimposed by a man who has engendered such hatred among millions of his own people," Johnson said.

Russian officials will meet with their US counterparts in Geneva on Saturday to try and stop Aleppo from "being absolutely, completely destroyed," said US Secretary of State John Kerry.

He is also in Paris for a meeting on Saturday with foreign ministers from the Western and Arab backers of Syria's opposition. 

rs/bw (AP, AFP, Reuters)

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