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US, Russia in bid to end fighting in Syria`s Aleppo

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GENEVA — US Secretary of State John Kerry arrived Sunday in Geneva in a bid to restore an across the country truce in Syria, as Russia said it was attempting to stop fighting in Aleppo.

Kerry arrived Sunday night in Geneva, where he will hold talks with UN Syria envoy Staffan de Mistura and the Saudi and Jordanian foreign ministers on reviving the ceasefire.

Over a week of fighting in Syria`s second city has killed many civilians and left an UN-upheld peace process hanging by a string.

Concern has been growing that the fighting will lead to the complete collapse of a landmark ceasefire between President Bashar al-Assad`s regime and non-jihadist rebels that was brokered by Moscow and Washington.

On Saturday, Russia said it would not urge Assad`s forces to halt air raids on the war-ravaged city as they were targeting jihadist groups not covered by the truce, which took effect in late February.

But on Sunday, after Washington called on Russia to push its Syrian ally to end the strikes, the head of Moscow`s coordination centre in Syria said talks on a freeze had begun.

“Currently active negotiations are underway to establish a `regime of silence` in Aleppo province,” Lieutenant General Sergei Kuralenko was quoted as saying by Russian news agencies.

He said that a freeze in fighting in Eastern Ghouta, a suburb of Damascus, had been extended by another 24 hours to the end of Sunday and that another freeze was holding in northern Latakia province.”We are calling on all sides interested in establishing peace in Syria to support the Russian-American initiative and not to allow a regime of silence to be disrupted,” Kuralenko said from Russia`s Hmeimim air base in Syria.

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Before leaving Riyadh for Geneva, Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir accused the Assad regime of committing “war crimes” in Aleppo.

At least 253 civilians — including 49 children — have died in shelling, rocket fire and air strikes in both sides of the divided city since April 22, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitor says.

Early on Sunday the provincial capital`s rebel-held east was eerily quiet, an AFP correspondent said, with the last air strike there at around 1:00 am (2200 GMT Saturday) local time.

There were no reports of fighting in the regime-controlled west, the Observatory said.

Air strikes did hit several rebel areas on Aleppo`s northwestern outskirts, after rebel shelling of the west and regime bombing north of the city in the night, the Observatory said.

And a raid on Wednesday hit a hospital supported by Doctors Without Borders and the Red Cross as well as nearby housing, killing 30 people and sparking an international outcry.

On Saturday, many terrified residents fled a new wave of air strikes on the city`s east, saying the violence had become unbearable.

Syria`s conflict erupted in 2011 after the brutal repression of anti-government protests and has since escalated into a complex, multi-faceted war.

AFP

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Israeli fighter jets strike Gaza after blast wounds four soldiers

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GAZA CITY — Israeli fighter jets struck the Gaza Strip on Saturday after four soldiers were wounded when an improvised explosive device blew up along the border with the Palestinian enclave.

The explosion earlier Saturday, which left two of the Israeli soldiers severely injured, was one of the most serious incidents on the border of the Hamas-ruled enclave since the Islamist movement and Israel fought a war in 2014.

In response Israel’s army said “fighter jets targeted six military targets in Gaza belonging to Hamas, including: a terror tunnel in the Zaytun area and military compounds near Deir el-Balah and Khan Yunis”.

The army then reported a “launch was identified from the Gaza Strip at Israeli territory”.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at a security conference in Munich called the Gaza border incident “very serious” and pledged to ‘respond appropriately’.

ALSO READ :  Syrian army announces victory in Aleppo

A Palestinian security source said the Israeli air strikes hit three bases belonging to Hamas in the east of the blockaded Gaza enclave.

Two Palestinians were injured in the raids, Palestinian medical sources said.

Earlier in the day the army said “two soldiers were severely wounded, one moderately and one slightly” when an improvised explosive device blew up along the border fence with Gaza.

None of the soldiers’ lives were in danger, a spokesman clarified.

In response Israeli forces said a tank quickly opened fire at an “observation post” in southern Gaza, causing no injuries on the Palestinian side.

Palestinian security sources said the explosion took place east of the city of Khan Yunis.

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