Seeking to spare civilians from deadly fighting, Staffan de Mistura, the U.N. special envoy for the Syria crisis, says that he's gotten President Bashar al-Assad's government to promise that it won't carry out airstrikes or shelling on Aleppo — if the rebel opposition also halts its attacks in the city.
Aleppo has been the subject of bitter fighting, with rebels and government forces dividing a city that was once a productive economic engine. This week, new fighting has erupted in and around the city, which lies in northern Syria. The U.N. wants to create a "freeze" on violence there, in the hopes that it might build toward a peaceful resolution.
From Beirut, NPR's Alison Meuse reports:
"De Mistura says Damascus is willing to halt air raids and shelling on Aleppo for six weeks. He says that includes all aerial bombardment, code for the deadly barrel bombs, which have wreaked havoc on civilian areas.
"De Mistura's next task is to convince the rebels to halt mortar and rocket fire for the same period.
"The announcement comes after a day of fierce fighting in the Aleppo countryside, which left 150 combatants dead, only to end in stalemate. De Mistura says it's urgent that civilians be spared. He says the government's new pledge is a glimmer of hope."
For a look at the far-reaching effects of Syria's civil war, see NPR's Can't Go Home special report, focusing on four families who have fled the violence.