Putin rejects "political rhetoric" over Syria as strikes hit Aleppo

Russian President Vladimir Putin has dismissed suggestions that Moscow should be investigated for potential war crimes in Syria as "political rhetoric."

Diplomatic tensions between France and Russia have risen over the multi-sided Syrian conflict, with Putin postponing a scheduled trip to Paris after France called for a war crimes investigation into bombardments of Syria's divided city of Aleppo.

Speaking to French broadcaster TF1 in an interview aired late Wednesday, Putin called the suggestions "political rhetoric that does not have great significance and does not take into account the real situation in Syria."

Putin added that Russia's aim is to combat terrorism, and pointed to US forces hitting a hospital during an airstrike in Afghanistan as an example of collateral damage.

"The sad reality is that wherever military operations take place, innocent people suffer and die," Putin said. "But we cannot allow terrorists to hide between civilians used as a human shield."

In September 2015, Russia launched an air campaign in Syria in support of President Bashar al-Assad.

The rebel-held section of Aleppo has faced intense airstrikes by government forces and allied Russia since last month when a US-Russian-brokered truce collapsed in Syria.

At least seven civilians were killed on Thursday in bombing by unidentified jets on opposition-controlled districts in eastern Aleppo, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported.

"More than 30 air raids have targeted various neighbourhoods inside eastern Aleppo," Ibrahim al-Haj, a volunteer with the White Helemets rescue team group, said.

Al-Haj told dpa that at least 13 people have been killed in the area since early Thursday due to the bombardment. 

Four children were meanwhile killed in shelling by rebels on a regime-held neighbourhood in western Aleppo, the Britain-based Observatory said.

At least 630 civilians, including 123 children, have been killed in Aleppo's violence since the ceasefire in Syria crumbled on September 19, the Observatory estimated.

In recent months, al-Assad's forces, backed by Russian air power, have made territorial gains against both the opposition and the Islamic State extremist group.

On Thursday, some 150 rebel fighters were transferred from outskirts of the capital Damasacus to the rebel-controlled province of Idlib in north-western Syria under a deal with the Syrian government, the Observatory reported.

Fifteen buses transported the insurgents and their families from al-Hama and Qudsaya on the western edge of Damascus after they had surrendered their weapons to to the government authorities as part of the deal, the watchdog added.

Similar evacuations have been carried out in recent weeks from the towns of Daraya and Moadamiyeh al-Sham near Damascus and the district of al- Waer in the central Homs province after they had been besieged by government forces for years.

The Syrian government has now regained control or negotiated local truces in much of the Damascus hinterland that fell into rebel hands earlier in the five-year conflict.

In northern Syria, a booby-trapped car exploded late Thursday in Azaz in the northern countryside of Aleppo, killing at least 17 Turkish-backed rebels, the Observatory said.

It added that the blast occured on the road which connects the region of Sajo and the Bab al Salameh border crossing between Syria and Turkey.

On October 6, a blast on the Turkish-Syrian border killed at least 29 Turkish-backed rebels. The blast was then claimed by the Islamic State jihadist movement.

Ankara and Turkish-backed rebels began a military operation on August 24, targeting both the Islamic State and the Kurdish People's protection Units (YPG) militia which Turkey considers a "terrorist" group.

The military operation has so far captured the Islamic State stronghold of Jarabulus and the forces are pushing towards the jihadist-held towns of Al-Bab and Dabiq.

Dabiq is a town where according to Islamic State's ideology an apocalyptic battle will take place.

It is also the name of the terror group's English-language propaganda magazine. 

Last update: Thu, 13/10/2016 - 23:07

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