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The Latest: Red Cross sheltering 20,000 displaced in Aleppo

Cars are bumper to bumper on a bridge as they wait to be searched at a military checkpoint in Damascus, Syria, Thursday, Dec. 1, 2016. (AP Photo/Hassan Ammar)

Cars are bumper to bumper on a bridge as they wait to be searched at a military checkpoint in Damascus, Syria, Thursday, Dec. 1, 2016. (AP Photo/Hassan Ammar)

ANKARA, Turkey — The Latest on the conflict in Syria (all times local):

7:45 p.m.

An official with the International Committee of the Red Cross says more than 20,000 people displaced from east Aleppo are staying in two collective shelters in the northern city, warning that many more thousands will be displaced if the fighting continues.

Pawel Krzysiek, head of communications at the ICRC in Damascus, told The Associated Press Thursday that the situation of displaced people who fled districts in eastern Aleppo is "very dramatic, heartbreaking."

The fighting in Aleppo has played out tragically with dozens killed and tens of thousands, mostly women and children, displaced from their homes in rebel-held areas since Saturday.

He said one of the collective shelters is without electricity, water and telephone coverage.

Krzysiek said they are providing "the very basic emergency response, blankets, mattresses and canned food."


6:15 p.m.

A coalition of human rights groups is calling upon the U.N. General Assembly to hold an emergency special session to demand an end to unlawful attacks on civilians in the Syrian city of Aleppo.

Human Rights Watch, in a statement Thursday, accused the Russian-Syrian coalition of committing war crimes during a month-long bombing campaign in eastern Aleppo and called on U.N. member states to work to bring those responsible for war crimes to justice.

The statement said the bombing campaign included the use of cluster bombs and incendiary weapons and killed more than 440 civilians, including over 90 children.

The appeal comes after Russia vetoed a U.N. resolution demanding an end to the aerial bombardment of Aleppo on Oct. 8, effectively blocking action in the Security Council.


4:25 p.m.

A spokesman for a Syrian opposition group says allowing in humanitarian aid is the priority of international and regional efforts in the besieged part of Aleppo.

Yasser al-Yousef, of the Turkish-backed Nour el-Din el-Zinki, said Thursday that Turkey is leading regional efforts to reach calm in the city with Russia.

Russian-backed Syrian government troops have been advancing on the eastern part of the city, held by the opposition since 2012.

Al-Yousef said the rebels are consulting with the Turks but not negotiating directly with the Russians, and that the talks are focused on humanitarian issues. "There is no political solution now," he said.

He said opposition fighters inside Aleppo have formed a new alliance to defend the enclave. He said the force of several thousand fighters includes about 200 al-Qaida-linked members.


3:15 p.m.

The U.N. envoy for Syria says the United Nations and its humanitarian aid partners are strengthening their presence in government-controlled western Aleppo, hoping to "make a difference" in the city's besieged, rebel-held east.

Staffan de Mistura says the enhanced presence also aims to "deter possible mishandling" of at least 27,000 people who have fled from eastern to western Aleppo or nearby Kurdish-held areas as Syrian forces and their Russian backers advance into rebel zones.

De Mistura expressed concern about how those displaced people would be treated, which he said explains the increased U.N. presence in part.

Mistura's humanitarian aid chief, Jan Egeland, said Thursday that food for 150,000 people could be taken from western Aleppo into eastern Aleppo within an hour.

U.N. officials said winter shelters are the top priority.


11:42 a.m.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu says his country and Russia want a cease-fire in Syria, where the two nations support opposing camps in the conflict.

Speaking alongside his Russian counterpart, Sergey Lavrov, Cavusloglu said "we are in agreement that a cease-fire is needed so that the tragedy can come to an end."

Ankara and Moscow have long been at odds over the conflict in Syria, where Russia backs President Bashar Assad and Turkey supports rebel factions fighting to topple the Syrian leader.

The conflict has played out tragically in the divided city of Aleppo, where tens of thousands, mostly women and children, have been displaced from their homes in rebel areas since Saturday.

In reference to eastern Aleppo, Lavrov said his country will continue its support to the Syrian government until "Aleppo is cleared of terrorists."

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