Thursday 18 January 2018

Water plant bombed as Assad tightens grip on besieged Aleppo

Smoke rises from a rebel held neighbourhood of Aleppo, Syria
Smoke rises from a rebel held neighbourhood of Aleppo, Syria

Sarah El Deeb in Beirut

Air strikes pounded rebel-held eastern Aleppo yesterday, killing more than 20 people and hitting a water pumping station on the third day of a renewed air campaign on the besieged territory, Syrian rescue workers said.

The Russian military meanwhile said air strikes in the rebel-held province of Idlib earlier this week killed at least 30 members of an al-Qa'ida-linked group, including three commanders. The strikes are part of a major Syrian and Russian offensive launched earlier this week on opposition-held areas that has killed dozens of people.

In one area, volunteer first responders dug through the rubble for four hours before pulling out a six-year-old child who was still alive. The child's mother was killed in the strikes, said Ibrahim al-Haj, a spokesman for the rescuers, known as the Syrian Civil Defence.

The activist-run Public Services Authority said the Bab al-Nairab water plant was struck with a barrel bomb. Spokesman Ahmad al-Shami said the plant was damaged but was still operating.

"This regime uses any means to add pressure to civilians. It has bombed bakeries and hospitals and has not made an exception for water and electricity," he said.

Air strikes on Wednesday struck Aleppo's central blood bank and a children's hospital. Medical facilities have repeatedly come under attack during the Syrian conflict, with 126 such incidents this year alone, according to the World Health Organization.

Doctors Without Borders said the children's hospital and a surgical hospital were hit by Wednesday's strikes. "Hospital staff managed to move children - including prematurely born babies -from cots and incubators to the basement of the building in order to shelter them from the bombing," said the aid group.

The Oxfam aid group said the more than 250,000 residents of eastern Aleppo had limited food and clean water as winter approached.

No UN aid has reached eastern Aleppo since July, and the UN has warned that supplies will run out this week. Oxfam said it helped move a generator to the besieged area on Wednesday to improve the water supply.

"Clean water is vital, but it won't stop starvation, never mind protect people from indiscriminate aerial attacks," said Andy Baker, of Oxfam.

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