A ceasefire in Aleppo has been extended by 10 hours, amid fears Russia is preparing a final assault on the rebel-held part of the city. The humanitarian pause in Russian and Syrian government airstrikes will now end at 7pm on Friday, Russian armed forces chief of staff Valery Gerasimov said. He said the extension would “prevent senseless casualties” and called on rebels to use the opportunity to leave Aleppo with their weapons, using two corridors leading out of the city. Civilians and the wounded would be allowed to leave via six other corridors, the Russian Defence Ministry said. It comes as Western intelligence officials warned that Russia may launch a final assault on eastern Aleppo as early as this week.
The prospect of the start of a political settlement and a return of the Syrian people to peaceful life has been postponed indefinitely.
Sergei Shoigu, Russian defence minister
A fleet of eight Russian warships have been dispatched towards the eastern Mediterranean and are expected to arrive as early as Wednesday. Dmitry Peskov, spokesman for Russian President Vladimir Putin, denied suggestions that an aerial attack would be unleashed once the fleet’s aircraft carrier, the Admiral Kuznetsov, reaches Syrian shores. Russia and its Syrian allies say they have halted air attacks in Aleppo since 18 October. Mr Peskov said Mr Putin believes the humanitarian pause should hold, but warned the rebel offensive could prompt a change in that policy.