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Leading charities call for ceasefire in east Aleppo

Four global NGOs issue joint plea 'to establish a ceasefire of at least 72 hours in east Aleppo'
At least 370 people have been killed in east Aleppo since 22 September (Reuters)

Leading charities have called for a ceasefire in the battered Syrian city of Aleppo, ahead of a meeting of world powers on Saturday in Switzerland to discuss the carnage.

Four global NGOs issued the joint plea "to establish a ceasefire of at least 72 hours in east Aleppo," where about 250,000 people live under bombardment and are besieged by pro-government forces.

"This will allow the sick and wounded to be evacuated, and for food and medical aid to enter the besieged area," said a statement from one of the charities, Save the Children.

The foreign ministers of the United States and Russia, which back opposite sides in Syria's five-year war, are due to meet on Saturday in Lausanne to restart a tattered peace process.

"We have failed Syria's children for too long." - Helle Thorning-Schmidt, Save the Children

Moscow has faced rising international criticism over its backing for President Bashar al-Assad's onslaught in divided Aleppo, including Western accusations of possible war crimes.

More than 370 people, including nearly 70 children, have been killed in government and Russian bombardment of east Aleppo since the assault began on 22 September, according to the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitor.

"We have failed Syria's children for too long and there must be accountability for what's happening to them in Aleppo," Save the Children International head Helle Thorning-Schmidt said in the statement.

The International Rescue Committee, the Norwegian Refugee Council and Oxfam International also joined the call for a truce in Aleppo.

"The children of Aleppo cannot wait for a war of words to play out; time is running out for them," Thorning-Schmidt said.

The Observatory said pro-government forces used the air raids to advance southwards from positions in north Aleppo on Friday.

The intensified bombardment has put a severe strain on rescue workers and medical staff in east Aleppo.

"This recent escalation has been huge, and we've had a lot of work," said Ibrahim Abu al-Leith, a spokesman for the White Helmets rescue force in Aleppo.

He said rescuers were still working to remove people from the rubble in the Tariq al-Bab eastern district.

AFP's correspondent in east Aleppo said some people have been stranded under the rubble for at least two days as rescuers have scrambled between neighbourhoods.