Russia prepared to escort aid in Syria's Aleppo
The Russian Defence Ministry says it's ready to escort aid agencies into parts of Syria's eastern Aleppo recently cleared of rebels, but has not received any requests from the United Nations or anyone else so far.
Sergei Rudskoi, a defence ministry official, told reporters on Wednesday Syrian government forces had completely cleared the Castello road of rebels, meaning there was now an unimpeded path for aid deliveries.
Rudskoi also said Russia's air force had not bombed targets inside Aleppo for 44 straight days.
Russia's denial of air strikes come as an official from the Aleppo-based Jabha Shamiya rebel group said air strikes against rebel-held areas of Aleppo have intensified, hitting areas of its old city, though pro-government forces are yet to make further advances.
A Syrian military source meanwhile said the army's operation in Aleppo was being delayed by "terrorist attempts to hide among civilians".
The Syrian government refers to all the rebels as terrorists.
Syrian government forces backed by allied militia from Lebanon, Iraq and Iran have driven rebels from more than a third of the area of eastern Aleppo they controlled in recent days.
The president of the Aleppo local council has pleaded for the Syrian government assault on eastern Aleppo to be halted to create a safe corridor for civilians to leave the besieged city.
He called for the immediate establishment of safe corridors for potentially some 250,000 civilians to leave the city.
The Syrian army and its allies announced the capture of a large swathe of eastern Aleppo from rebels earlier this week, in an attack that threatens to crush the opposition in its most important urban stronghold.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the Syrian government had detained hundreds of people forced to flee rebel-held areas of east Aleppo by the attack.
France, a backer of the anti-Assad opposition, has called for a meeting of the United Nations Security Council and Foreign Minister Ayrault said the international community could not turn a blind eye to "the massacres".
New Zealand has joined Egypt and Israel to put forward a UN Security Council resolution demanding a ceasefire in the besieged Syrian city of Aleppo.
Fierce fighting has been going on for weeks in Aleppo as Syrian government forces try to gain control of the parts of the city held by rebels.
Foreign Minister Murray McCully says pressure must be put on those perpetuating the violence.
"The presence of a few hundred Al-Nusra terrorists in Eastern Aleppo does not justify an all-out attack on more than 250,000 civilians, the bombing of every hospital in the city, and cutting off the population from aid and outside assistance," he said.
"We have long been of the view that the Security Council needs to live up to its responsibilities and the resolution we have put forward spells out the requirements for a ceasefire, humanitarian access, and a resumption of negotiations in Syria."
Reuters / NZN