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Monday 19 February 2018

Fresh wave of airstrikes hits Syria's divided city of Aleppo

Bashar Assad said taking back Aleppo would provide important political and strategic gains for his regime
Bashar Assad said taking back Aleppo would provide important political and strategic gains for his regime

Syrian residents in the opposition-held eastern part of Aleppo hunkered under a fresh wave of airstrikes on Friday, amid intense clashes between government forces and rebels.

A senior opposition official warned that supplies of food and medicines were fast running out in the besieged city.

The aerial bombardment is part of a weeks-long devastating military campaign by Syria and Russia that the opposition says has killed dozens of people in the past three days alone.

President Bashar Assad has expressed his intention to recapture the northern city's rebel eastern neighbourhoods, saying that a military victory in Aleppo would provide the Syrian army with a "springboard" from which to liberate other areas of the country.

"You have to keep cleaning this area and to push the terrorists to Turkey to go back to where they came from, or to kill them," Assad said in an interview with a Russian media outlet, Komsomolskaya Pravda, released on Thursday.

"There's no other option," he added.

Syrian government forces have encircled the eastern half of Aleppo, besieging tens of thousands of people and pounding the territory with airstrikes on daily basis.

The siege and deadly bombardment has caused an international outcry with a number of countries and groups accusing Syria and Russia of war crimes in connection with attacks on medical facilities and aid convoys.

Mohammad Fadelah, the head of the Aleppo Provincial Council, said the opposition had brought in enough supplies to Aleppo under an emergency plan that would last six months. But he said that with the recent escalation and bombing of hospitals and bakeries, supplies were quickly running out.

"We have emergency reserves but I think we can maybe go another month with what we have. Flour will run out in a month," he told reporters by telephone on Friday from the city of Gaziantep in southern Turkey. He estimated there were around 275,000 people in the besieged part of eastern Aleppo.

US president Barack Obama planned to convene his National Security Council for a highly anticipated meeting about Syria on Friday.

Having cut off diplomatic talks with Russia after a ceasefire in Syria failed, the Obama administration has been at a loss to find a new viable strategy to stem the violence even as the bloodshed in Aleppo and elsewhere continues to mount.

The violence also gives additional urgency to the forthcoming meeting between Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov and US Secretary of State John Kerry on efforts to find a peace deal in Syria in Switzerland on Saturday.

It will be the first face-to-face contact between the two men since Washington broke off bilateral diplomatic contact with Moscow earlier this month.

Late Friday, Iran's semi-official Fars news agency reported that foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif will also attend the talks in Lausanne.

Among the areas hit was the eastern Sakhour neighbourhood where one of the city's largest hospitals, known as M10, was stuck again. It had been hit several times over the past month, putting it out of service.

Doctors Without Borders said three weeks of airstrikes on eastern Aleppo have killed 114 children and wounded 320 others.


Press Association

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