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Syria announces surprise easing of Aleppo assault

DAMASCUS: Syria’s military on Wednesday announced a surprise reduction in bombardment of rebel groups in devastated Aleppo, nearly two weeks after declaring an all-out assault to capture the city.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said 270 people, including 53 children, had been killed in air raids on the eastern districts since the assault began.

But on Wednesday, Syria’s military said it would reduce the bombardment “after the success of our armed forces in Aleppo and cutting off all terrorist supply routes into the eastern districts”. “The military command has decided to reduce the number of air strikes and artillery on terrorist positions to allow civilians that want to leave to reach safe areas,” the statement carried by news agency SANA said.

It was not immediately clear what was behind the move, or if Russian air strikes would also be reduced.

On Monday, bombardment destroyed the largest hospital in rebel-held quarters, where an estimated 250,000 people live under government siege.

Hours later, the US announced it would suspend bilateral efforts with Moscow at reviving a ceasefire, accusing Russia of trying to bomb Syrian civilians “into submission”.

Moscow and Washington’s top diplomats had been working together since early this year to reach a diplomatic solution to Syria’s bloodshed, which has killed more than 300,000 people since 2011.

An agreement in September had envisioned an end to hostilities, increased aid deliveries, and eventual coordination between the two world powers against jihadists — but it collapsed after a week.

Since then, France has stepped into the diplomatic vacuum with a draft United Nations resolution on a ceasefire in Aleppo that it will submit to the Security Council this week.

French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault will travel to Moscow on Thursday and Washington on Friday to try to garner support for the draft, his office said.

The resolution is aimed at “paving the way to a ceasefire in Aleppo and for the local population to gain access to the humanitarian aid it so needs,” the foreign ministry said.

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