Warplanes carry out fresh wave of raids in rebel-held area of city, as activist warns of annihilation
A heavy bombardment of rebel-held east Aleppo entered a second day on Friday, hours after the Syrian military announced a major new offensive against the city that objective all talk of restoring a US-Russian ceasefire and raised questions over whether it had been a tactical gambit by the Assad regime and its Russian sponsors.
Ammar al Selmo, the head of the civil defence rescue service in east Aleppo, told Reuters a fresh wave of bombing had started at 6am local hour after heavy overnight attacks. Whats happening now is annihilation, he told. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said at the least 30 air strikes had targeted different areas of the city.
The Syrian militarys proclamation of a new offensive was built on Thursday as the US secretary of state, John Kerry, met his Russian opposite number, Sergey Lavrov, and other foreign ministers on the margins of a United Nations summit in New York, with the ostensible hope of restoring a week-long truce that collapsed on Monday.
The meeting broke up after more than two hours without a clear conclusion. Kerry declared we cannot continue on the same route any longer but said he had given Russia another chance to come up with immediate and significant steps to stop the violence, including the end of Russian and Syrian government bombing of opposition regions. He said he expected to hear back from Lavrov on Friday, but US officials did not say what Washington would do if Moscow did not comply.
The official Syrian army statement proclaiming the offensive told: The high command announces the start of operations in the east of Aleppo and calls for brothers and citizens to stay away from areas where terrorists are operating.
The statement called for civilians to head to Syrian regime checkpoints to be escorted to safety.
The army declaration followed several days of bombing of eastern Aleppo with helicopter-borne barrel bombs and airstrikes from warplanes, which had intensified on Thursday.
In New York Kerry said that the only way to curb the bloodshed was for the ones who have the air power in this part of the conflict to simply stop using it.
Absent a major gesture like this we dont believe there is a point in inducing more promises or issuing more schemes or announcing something that cant be enforced or reached, the secretary of state said. We cant used to go and say we have an agreement when we dont. Nor do we tell our partners there is a cessation when there isnt. The simple reality is that we cant resolve the crisis if one side is unwilling to do what is necessary to avoid escalation.
We have exchanged ideas with the Russians and we plan to consult tomorrow with respect to those ideas, Kerry said. If the Russians come back to us with constructive proposals we will listen.
Lavrov left the meeting without comment, and the French foreign minister, Jean-Marc Ayrault said the Russians contribution to the meeting had been unsatisfactory.
A senior US official used to say news of the Syrian declaration of a new offensive had reached the ministers during the session and further undermined hope of restoring the ceasefire. Asked what the US would do if the Russians and Syrian government did not respond with an objective to the air campaign, the official said obviously this is something we are giving a lot of believe that that ourselves.
Our patience with the present process is far from limitless, the senior official said. I dont think tonight or right now as we are approaching a climactic stage in this is the time where we will go from here, but your question is one is very much on our minds as well.
Charles Lister, a senior fellow at the Middle East Institute, said that the Assad regime had employed the weeklong, very partial ceasefire to regroup and prepare for further fighting.
By continuing along this current track, we are sitting in hope that a genocidal dictator in Damascus is going to suddenly behave himself and we are assuming that a country that is willing to subject an UN-administered aid convoy to a brutal two-hour air attack is not playing us for buffoons, Lister told.
Im sorry to say, that the US has lost great deal of credibility through the current policy approach to Syria. Prioritising diplomacy above all else is a brave and laudable foundation, but when its consistently failed to produce anything good for five years in a row, perhaps its time to consider new and more assertive measures?
Since Monday, the Syrian air force has stepped up its bombing of rebel-held regions, and both Russia and Syria have been implicated in the attack on the relief convoy, which the UN has deemed a potential war crime.
On Thursday, the Syrian American Medical Society, which operates and subsistences several hospitals in the country, said one of its facilities in Aleppo had been targeted overnight with cluster munitions. The UN told a clinic had been destroyed in Khan Tuman district, killing medical staff and with civilians still reportedly trapped under the rubble.
The Syrian president, Bashar al-Assad, denied his government was responsible for the repeated bombing of hospitals. We dont attack any hospitals, he told the Associated Press. This is how we can help the terrorists, if we assault hospitals, schools, and things like this.
Assad also rejected criticism of his forces use of barrel bombs, improvised crates of high explosives most often fallen on urban areas from helicopters. He said the focus on such weapons was because in the media, when it hemorrhages, it leads.
A bomb is a bomb, whats discrepancies between different kinds of bombs? All bomb are to kill, but its about how to use it, he told. When “youre using” an armament, you use it to defend the civilians. You kill terrorists in order to defend civilians.
Fresh details of the horror from a night of intense bombardment emerged on Thursday, including the death of a family of seven in Aleppos al-Kallaseh neighbourhood on Wednesday night. The dead included a 14 -year-old boy, Ayham, and two babies aged five and nine months, named Laren and Hanaa.
Another family survived for hours under the rubble of their home before being rescued by the father.
The aircrafts have not left the citys skies and the bombing is continuous and indiscriminate, said one activist in eastern Aleppo. Heavy conflicts gripped the citys outskirts after airstrikes triggered major flames, with local activists blaming incendiary bombs.
Its so close to my house and I can see the fire, said one resident in a voice message sent two hours after midnight. There is fire in the sky.
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