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Airstrikes, shelling kill at least 60 in Aleppo

Published : Apr 29, 2016, 2:15 am IST
Updated : Apr 29, 2016, 2:15 am IST

People walk amid the rubble of destroyed buildings following a reported airstrike on the rebel-held neighbourhood of al-Kalasa, in the northern Syrian city of Aleppo. (Photo: AFP)


People walk amid the rubble of destroyed buildings following a reported airstrike on the rebel-held neighbourhood of al-Kalasa, in the northern Syrian city of Aleppo. (Photo: AFP)

A wave of airstrikes and shelling killed more than 60 people in less than 24 hours in the northern Syrian city of Aleppo, monitors and activists said Thursday. The contested city is now one of the main battlegrounds of Syria’s devastating civil war, with a ceasefire that has collapsed and peace talks in Geneva stalled.

At least 27 people died as a hospital supported by Doctors Without Borders and the International Committee for the Red Cross and nearby buildings were hit overnight in the rebel-held part of Aleppo.

The Syrian Army was preparing an offensive on Thursday to retake Aleppo, as escalating fighting in the divided second city killed dozens of civilians in a new blow to a tattered truce.

Nearly 200 people have been killed in Aleppo in the past week as rebels have pounded government-held neighbourhoods with rocket and artillery fire and the regime has hit rebel areas with air raids.

UN envoy Staffan de Mistura warned the hard-won February 27 ceasefire was now “barely alive” and pleaded for urgent action by its co-sponsors Russia and the United States to rescue it.

But pro-government newspaper Al Watan said the Army was poised for “decisive battle” for Aleppo and the surrounding province while a source close to the regime said the campaign was imminent.

“Now is the time to launch the battle for the complete liberation of Aleppo,” the paper said, adding that it “will not take long to begin, nor to finish.” The regime source said that “the Army is preparing a huge operation in the coming days to push the rebels away from the city by encircling it and creating a security zone”.

Rebels have controlled eastern districts of Aleppo since 2012, while western neighbourhoods are held by the regime. Control of the surrounding province is divided between a myriad of armed groups — jihadists of Al Qaeda and the Islamic State group, Kurdish militia and various rebel factions as well as the Army.

The UN envoy for Syria appealed early Thursday on the United States and Russia to help revive the peace talks and a cease-fire, which he said “hangs by a thread.”

However, the violence has only escalated. New airstrikes Thursday in residential areas in the rebel-held part of the city killed at least 20 while state media reported that at least 1,000 mortars and rockets were fired at government-held areas of Aleppo, killing at least 14 civilians.

The chief Syrian Opposition negotiator Mohammed Alloush blamed the government of President Bashar Assad for the violence. He said that it shows “the environment is not conducive to any political action.” He denounced the intensive bombing as an attempt by Mr Assad’s government to drive the residents of Aleppo out, labelling it “a crime of ethnic and sectarian cleansing.”

About 200 civilians have been killed in the past week in Syria, nearly half of them around Aleppo. There has also been shelling in Damascus, along with a car bombing — both rarities for the capital. The ICRC said the fighting, including the destruction in airstrikes overnight of a key hospital in Aleppo, is putting millions at grave risk.

Location: Lebanon, Beirut