Tens of thousands of civilians flee Aleppo: Russian Defense Ministry | News | DW | 10.12.2016
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Tens of thousands of civilians flee Aleppo: Russian Defense Ministry

Russia's Defense Ministry has said some 20,000 civilians fled the war-torn city on Saturday alone. The announcement comes as an international meeting on the crisis was held in Paris.

Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov said on Saturday that tens of thousands of civilians had streamed out of the eastern part of the city, as foreign leaders convened in the French capital to discuss ways to end the ongoing war in Syria.

According to Konashenkov, around 50,000 civilians had left over the past two days, with some 20,000 fleeing the city on Saturday alone.

The Defense Ministry also said that Russian-backed Syrian forces had suspended their offensive on the city to allow the civilians to leave, though UK-based monitor Syrian Observatory for Human Rights contradicted that claim, reporting that clashes in the area were still ongoing.

The Syrian army has made significant gains in Aleppo over the past several days as it tries to retake the rebel-held eastern part of the city. According to one source who spoke to Reuters news agency, forces had retaken about 85 percent of the territory held since 2012 by rebels seeking to topple President Bashar al-Assad.

Syrian (picture-alliance/AP Photo/H. Ammar)

The Syrian army has retaken almost all rebel-held areas

More peace talks

The gains came as the UN pushed for another cessation of hostilities in the country, passing a resolution on Friday that demanded an immediate end to fighting and access to humanitarian aid for the besieged civilians. Russia, Iran and China voted against the resolution, which is nonbinding.

Earlier in the week, the UN Security Council had tried and failed to adopt a ceasefire agreement after China and Russia vetoed it.

The EU also announced on Friday it would slap new sanctions on the Syrian regime in response to its offensive in Aleppo. Following the decision, foreign leaders including US Secretary of State John Kerry, German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier and British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson met on Saturday in Paris to pave the way for new peace talks in Geneva between the warring parties.

The meeting came despite many in the international community arguing that the war is still far from over, with much of Syrian territory still held by the so-called "Islamic State" terrorist group.

blc/tj  (AP, Reuters, AFP, dpa)