Friday 24 January 2020

At least two dead in latest fighting in Aleppo

Much of the fighting in Syria is centred on the city of Aleppo (AP)
Much of the fighting in Syria is centred on the city of Aleppo (AP)

Syrian government forces have been targeting their assault on the eastern, rebel-held neighbourhoods of Aleppo, while rebel shelling of government-controlled parts of the city has left at least two people dead.

Rebels said pro-government forces are attacking the city from the south in a bid to penetrate its opposition-controlled areas, where the UN estimates 275,000 people are trapped in a government siege. The Islamic Front rebel coalition said on Twitter that its factions repelled an advance on the Sheikh Saeed neighbourhood.

The rebel shelling on the city university's School of Sciences killed two students, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, but state media put the toll at six dead and 47 wounded.

Also on Tuesday, activists raised the death toll from a suicide bombing at a Kurdish wedding in the north-eastern city of Hasakah the previous night to at least 34.

The attack was claimed by the Islamic State group, which said its fighter had targeted a gathering of a Kurdish political party, without mentioning a wedding celebration.

Issam Amin, a local media activist, said a teenager detonated an explosive vest when he was stopped by men at the entrance of the wedding's reception. The Observatory, which tracks the civil war through a network of activists on the ground, said 11 of the fatalities were children.

The attacks underscore the chaos of the Syrian conflict. The civil war has lately focused around Aleppo, where the situation has deteriorated considerably since the collapse of a US-Russia-brokered ceasefire two weeks ago.

There are several other fronts open between rebels and the government across the country, while Islamic State militants continue to stage large-scale attacks against all sides of the conflict.

The Observatory said the government offensive is accompanied by air strikes on the contested neighbourhoods. The monitoring group says 420 civilians have been killed in and around Aleppo since the collapse of the ceasefire, mainly in the rebel-held east of the embattled city.

Health facilities and hospitals have come under repeated attack in the offensive, prompting global outcry.

In Geneva, the UN human rights chief decried an unfolding "calamity" in Aleppo and condemned the Security Council for scuttling resolutions that would prohibit war crimes.

Zeid Ra'ad al-Hussein said the Security Council should adopt rules to limit veto use by its five permanent members in cases of war crimes, crimes against humanity, or genocide. The US, France, Britain, as well as several UN officials have warned that Russia and the Syrian government's actions in the war could amount to war crimes.

International efforts to end the fighting were dealt another serious blow on Monday, after the United States suspended direct contact with Russia on halting the war in Syria, underscoring the deep mistrust between the two powers.

The move is likely to scuttle any chances of delivering desperately needed humanitarian aid to besieged communities and of breathing new life into Syria peace talks.


PA Media

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