Aleppo
Rebel fighters carry their weapons as they pose in a rebel-held area of Aleppo on 8 December. Russia's foreign minister announced combat operations in eastern Aleppo had been suspendedReuters

Syria's army has suspended its combat operations in eastern Aleppo to allow 8,000 civilians in the war zone to be evacuated, Russia's foreign minister has said.

"I can tell you that today, combat operations by the Syrian army have been halted in eastern Aleppo because there is a large operation under way to evacuate civilians," Sergey Lavrov said.

After talks with US Secretary of State John Kerry in Hamburg, Sergey Lavrov said on Thursday (8 December) that Moscow and Washington have agreed to discuss the withdrawal of Syrian rebels from the besieged city at a meeting of military experts and diplomats in Geneva in two days.

They will work on helping the rebels leave Aleppo's eastern neighbourhoods, along with civilians who are also willing to leave the city, the Associated Press reported.

The Syrian government had dismissed calls for a cease-fire, as its troops press their offensive on the rebel-held enclave.

Earlier, a local council leader in Aleppo warned that "150,000 people are condemned to death" in the city, the BBC reported.

Meanwhile, Russia's deputy foreign minister said a Western threat of new sanctions over Syria was a sign of "political impotence."

Sergei Ryabkov said that the threat of sanctions reflects a "complete political impotence of this group of nations". It followed a statement by the leaders of Britain, Germany, Italy, France, Canada and the US for an immediate cease-fire otherwise they might be "ready to consider additional restrictive measures against individuals and entities that act for or on behalf of the Syrian regime".