Tuesday 21 November 2017

Aleppo pounded by air strikes again

A baby is rescued from the rubble of a collapsed building in Aleppo in a still image taken from a video posted on social media Picture: Reuters
A baby is rescued from the rubble of a collapsed building in Aleppo in a still image taken from a video posted on social media Picture: Reuters

Josie Ensor

Rebel-held areas of Aleppo came under intense bombardment yesterday, with civil defence rescuers The White Helmets reporting strikes on three of their four centres in the area.

Residents of east Aleppo reported the heaviest bombardment in months overnight after the regime announced a fresh offensive, in a clear sign Bashar al-Assad's regime had no intention of complying with US appeals to stop the violence and extend the truce.

More than 30 bombings and 15 victims were reported in the early hours of yesterday.

However, damage to several of the White Helmets' ambulances meant they were unable to reach dozens of people trapped under the rubble.

Russian warplanes were carrying out strikes alongside Syrian aircraft, according to the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

"The Syrians are dropping barrel bombs and the Russian planes are launching strikes," said its director Rami Abdel Ahman.

"A horrible night," said Abdulkafi al-Hamdo, an English teacher living in the east. "Air strikes destroyed buildings and killed many people. In addition to the phosphorous, cluster, barrel and vacuum bombs, Assad has started using a rocket which digs deep into the ground, causing tremors like earthquakes.

"The international community is silent … we expect extermination."

Army officials said civilians there should avoid areas where "terrorists" were operating. A military source said the bombardment was in preparation for a ground operation to retake parts of the city.

A deal hammered out between the US and Russia offered a week of relief, but broke down on Monday amid accusations of violations from both sides.

Prospects of getting the truce back on course seemed dim. John Kerry, US secretary of state, met with his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov late into Thursday night but no agreement was reached.

"Absent a major gesture like this, we don't believe there is a point in making more promises or issuing more plans or announcing something that can't be enforced or reached," Mr Kerry said. "We can't go out and say we have an agreement when we don't. Nor do we tell our partners there is a cessation when there isn't. The simple reality is that we can't resolve the crisis if one side is unwilling to do what is necessary to avoid escalation."

Mr Kerry on Wednesday called for an effective no-fly zone, halting flights over battle zones to protect civilians from government and Russian bombings.

A Russian spokesman yesterday rejected the idea.

A senior US State Department official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told reporters: "The ball is very much in the Russians' court to come back to us with some ideas that are serious, that would be above and beyond the types of things they have been willing to agree to in the past with regard to air activities over large parts of Syria."

The two sides agreed to meet again yesterday in a bid to find a way forward.

After a week of diplomatic talks and attempts to seek consensus, developments on the ground in Syria seem to have overshadowed prospects for bringing about calm.

Irish Independent

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