Italy resists EU push for Russia sanctions

European Union leaders lashed out at Russia Thursday, criticizing its backing for the Syrian regime and accusing it of atrocities in the besieged city of Aleppo.

Russian Federation has been staging a bombing campaign in Syria for the past year in support of long-time ally President Bashar al-Assad and deployed a naval contingent to back up its operation.

Yasser al-Youssef, a member of the political bureau of the Nour el-Din el-Zinki rebel group, said the opposition had agreed to the initiative to evacuate wounded and allow in aid, but the Syrian government and Russian Federation gave no assurances the wounded would not face arrest.

Russian Federation is ready to extend humanitarian pause in Aleppo until Monday, reported the Associated Press adviser to the United Nations special envoy on Syria, Jan Egeland.

The UN, which regards Jabhat Fateh al-Sham as a terrorist organisation, says the group has 900 fighters inside Aleppo, out of a maximum of 8,000 rebels in total.

It is thought that around 250,000 civilians who live in Aleppo have been trapped by the fighting. "People are anxious they might be detained".

He said eight wounded militants left Thursday and were driven toward rebel-controlled Idlib, while seven civilians managed to flee at night. China joined Moscow in vetoing the first four resolutions.

The United Nations has said the duration of the pause is not enough to provide any relief supplies.

The scale of the casualties has prompted outrage in the West, with Washington saying the bombardment amounted to a possible war crime. The army blames rebels opposed to President Bashar al-Assad for preventing them leaving and says they use civilians as human shields.

Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu said President Vladimir Putin had ordered the extension to 16:00 (13:00 GMT).

De Mistura said there were "perhaps 6,000-7,000" rebel fighters in eastern Aleppo, apparently revising an estimate two weeks ago in which he said there were 8,000 rebels there, including up to 900 members of Jabhat Fateh al-Sham.

Francois Hollande condemned the bombing of Aleppo as "a war crime", while Angela Merkel described it as "inhumane and cruel".

Despite strong rhetoric against Russia's military actions in Syria, notably in aiding regime attacks on the besieged city of Aleppo, the leaders failed to agree on a tough joint statement sending a clear message to Moscow that it could face punitive measures.

After a summit in Brussels, European Council President Donald Tusk said the 28 leaders "strongly condemned the attacks by the Syrian regime and its allies, notably Russian Federation, on civilians in Aleppo".

After the first of two days of talks in Brussels, EU leaders said "all available options" remain on the table, without mentioning sanctions specifically, after they clashed over using more pointed language on Thursday. While leaders were not planning to make any decisive steps toward additional sanctions at the summit, the final communique represents a watering down of more specific threats contained in their draft text.

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