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Sunday 17 December 2017

Dozens of civilians killed as Syrian army continues Aleppo offensive

At least seven children were said to have been killed
At least seven children were said to have been killed

At least 26 civilians, including seven children, have been killed by artillery rounds in eastern Aleppo as they fled a government ground offensive.

The incident marks the second time the Jub al-Quba area, in the historic district of the rebel-held eastern side of the Syrian city, has been struck in as many days. An air strike blamed on the government killed 25 civilians in the same area.

The dead were also believed to have been newly displaced from the government onslaught on the northern parts of eastern Aleppo.

Meanwhile, eight civilians, including two children, were killed in shelling on the government-held western side of the city, according to state media. The government blamed rebels for the attack.

Embattled opposition fighters clashed with government-allied troops on the southern edge of the enclave amid an offensive which has cleaved the rebel-held part of the city.

The Syrian government pushed its way into the 17 square mile rebel-held zone over the weekend, making its first territorial gains in the area since 2012.

Government officials say they want to liberate the area, calling the opposition fighters terrorists and accusing them of holding civilians hostage.

Despite opening a number of passageways to allow civilians to leave before the offensive, none of the residents took advantage of it, citing fears of being arrested or forcibly conscripted. The passageways were not UN-supervised.

The bodies of the victims of the Jub al-Quba attack were pictured lining the streets on Wednesday, with their few belongings lying close by their sides.

Jawad al-Rifai, who took the pictures for the Aleppo Media Centre, said they were civilians, mostly women and children, fleeing shelling and air strikes on other parts of the city.

The area and others around it in Aleppo's centrally-located old city have absorbed thousands of residents displaced by the advance of government troops in the east.

The UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which monitors the war in Syria through a network of local contacts, said tens more were wounded in Jub al-Quba.

Observatory chief Rami Abdurrahman said he predicts death tolls will rise in east Aleppo as the internal displacement creates more residential density.

The SCD in eastern Aleppo, also known as the White Helmets, put the toll at 45 killed. It blamed the government for the strikes.

Rescue efforts by the group were hampered by the lack of functioning machinery, said Mr Rifai.

"Most of their equipment is out of service because of the targeting against their quarters," he added.

Tens of thousands of people have been displaced in Aleppo as pro-government Syrian forces press on with their campaign to reclaim the divided city.


Press Association

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