Time: 10:30 p.m. CEST
Syria’s army has suspended combat operations in eastern Aleppo, as Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov says, BBC.com writes. The decision is to allow evacuation of civilians, which are trapped in the battle zone and Lavrov said about 8.000 people would be taken out. Assad’s forces have retaken 75% of east Aleppo, most of them areas, which rebels controlled for four years. The United States evaluated the situation. “Our approach to the situation has been to listen carefully to what the Russians say, but scrutinize their actions,” said White House spokesman Josh Earnest.
The Associated Press reported that Syria’s President Bashar Assad said in comments on Thursday that “victory in the battle for Aleppo will be a ‘big gain’ for his government, but that that would not end the civil war in the country.
Deeply divided since 2012 between Syrian government and rebel-controlled areas, more than three quarters of the rebel section have now fallen under the government’s control, including the symbolically important ancient Aleppo quarters. More than 30,000 of the estimated 275,000 residents of besieged eastern part have fled to western Aleppo.
The International Committee for the Red Cross said meanwhile that it evacuated 148 disabled civilians and others in need of urgent care from a facility in Aleppo’s Old City after fighting had calmed down there.
ICRC said in a statement on Thursday that the evacuation was undertaken jointly with the Syrian Arab Red Crescent and was completed late on Wednesday. The people had been trapped in a facility that was originally a home for the elderly and included mental health patients, elderly orphans, and patients with physical disabilities. Some were injured civilians who had sought refuge there.
Also Thursday, Russian news agencies quoted Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov as saying Moscow was close to reaching a deal with the United States on a cease-fire for Aleppo. He didn’t elaborate, but warned against “high expectations.”
The Syrian government and its ally Russia have rejected previous calls for truce for the war-torn city, keeping up the military offensive that has squeezed and forced rebels to retreat in several areas.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov met on Wednesday in Germany but didn’t release any statements. Ryabkov said a final deal has not been worked out yet.