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Aleppo: Putin rejects army request to resume air raids

The Russian president told his military to hold the ceasefire over rebel-held eastern Aleppo for the time being.

rebel-held eastern Aleppo

Russian President Vladimir Putin has rejected a request by his military to resume air raids over Syria's rebel-held eastern Aleppo.

The Russian army said on Friday that it had asked the president for authorisation to resume its bombing campaign, but Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Putin "considers it inappropriate at the current moment", adding the president thought it necessary to "continue the humanitarian pause" in the war-battered city.

The request was made after Syrian opposition fighters launched an assault against the government-held western part of the city, firing rockets and detonating car bombs in a counter assault.

Opposition activists say 15 civilians, including children, were killed in those attacks on government-held western Aleppo. Rebels also targeted a military airbase.

The rebel assault comes more than three months into a government siege of eastern Aleppo, where more than 250,000 people live, and several weeks after the Syrian army began an operation to retake it.

Meeting in Moscow

Separately, the Iranian and Syrian foreign ministers were meeting in Moscow with their Russian counterpart to discuss the war.

"We are still ready to resume this truce, but on the assumption that we will receive a message from those who are the patrons of terrorism with the guarantees that the civilians will have an opportunity to take advantage of this truce," Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem said.

Moscow says it has not bombed Aleppo since October 18, when it implemented a three-day "humanitarian truce" intended to allow civilians and surrendering rebels to leave the east.

But few did so, and a UN plan to evacuate the wounded failed because security could not be guaranteed.

Some analysts think the period between now and January, when a new United States president will take office, is a time when raids on east Aleppo may intensify, believing US President Barack Obama will be reluctant to confront Russia militarily before he steps down.

On Friday, though, the US rejected the idea that the pause in the air assault on eastern Aleppo has provided much relief to civilians, accusing the Syrian government of using starvation as a weapon of war.

The AFP news agency, quoting a US official, said that "the [Syrian] regime has rejected UN requests to deliver aid to eastern Aleppo - using starvation as a weapon of war".

Close shave for Russian and US jets

A Russian fighter jet flew dangerously close to a US fighter jet over eastern Syria, US defence officials said on Friday, highlighting the risks of a serious mishap in the increasingly crowded airspace.

The "near miss" occurred late on October 17, when a Russian jet that was escorting a larger spy plane manoeuvred near an American plane, Air Force Lieutenant General Jeff Harrigian said.

The Russian jet came to "inside of half a mile" of the US jet, he added.

Another US military official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the American pilot was buffeted by the turbulence from the Russian jet's engines.

It appeared the Russian pilot had simply not seen the US jet, either on radar or visually. It was dark and the planes were flying without lights.

"I would attribute it to not having the necessary situational awareness given all those [planes] operating together," Harrigian said.

The incident raises serious questions about the extent to which pilots can track the complex airspace they operate in.

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