Russia sends sappers to clear east Aleppo mines

The rebel-held east, which fell from government control in 2012, has been particularly savaged by the conflict, with widespread destruction caused by repeated regime attacks.

The UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) said any unknown people are being taken to "specific places" in areas where other civilians are located.

On a visit to Paris, a local council leader east Aleppo called yesterday for safe passage for desperate civilians, warning the United Nations would be "signing the death warrant of 250,000 people" if it failed to act.

The International Committee of the Red Cross said about 20,000 had fled in the past four days, while the Syrian Observatory put the figure at more than 50,000.

Despite criticism that the Security Council has failed the people of Aleppo, some residents said they remained hopeful an agreement will stop the violence.

Regime forces were fought off Sheikh Saeed district in the south of the city on Wednesday.

The announcement came after Assad's ally Russian Federation said it expected Aleppo to be fully under government control by the end of the year.

The assault has seen President Bashar al-Assad's forces make significant gains in the past week.

"France and its partners cannot remain silent in the face of what could be one of the biggest massacres of civilian population since World War II", said France's United Nations ambassador Francois Delattre on Tuesday.

"They are moving in on the ground, but they are afraid of ambushes because of the density of both residents and fighters", he said.

One of the UN's top envoys warned that the people of Aleppo "don't have the means to survive for much longer" as Syrian state forces, Russian forces and the Islamic State encroach on the eastern side of the city.

East Aleppo has been under government siege for more than four months, with global aid stocks exhausted and food supplies running low. In fact, since CBS News arrived in Aleppo, the sound of shelling has not let up.

They were also believed to be newly displaced from the government onslaught on the northern parts of eastern Aleppo.

Speaking to Anadolu Agency, Ibrahim Abu Laith said most fatalities in the shelling in the opposition-held Jib Al-Quebeh neighborhood in eastern Aleppo were women and children, who had fled their homes due to regime attacks.

"In the shelter, we had dead people who we couldn't take out because the bombardment was so intense", he said.

A ground and air campaign by Syrian government forces and their Russian and Lebanese allies that began in September has cut off rebels in their most important urban stronghold, and left around 250,000 civilians with rapidly dwindling food and medical facilities.

On Wednesday morning, 26 civilians including seven children were killed in government artillery fire on the Jubb al-Qubbeh district in east Aleppo, the Observatory said.

Fifty-three people were killed on Tuesday, and another 45 had died by Wednesday afternoon, the Aleppo Media Center activist group said.

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