Wednesday 13 December 2017

Syria rebels keep up offensive on Aleppo

Staffan De Mistura says the attacks in Aleppo could amount to war crimes
Staffan De Mistura says the attacks in Aleppo could amount to war crimes

Syrian insurgents have kept up their shelling of government-controlled areas of Aleppo, killing at least seven people, including three children, state TV reported.

They pushed their way with car bombs and tanks into new territory in the western part of the city with the Syrian government claiming the opposition fighters used toxic gas.

The attacks raised the death toll in the three-day old offensive to at least 41 civilians, including 16 children, according to the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

United Nations Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura said he was "appalled and shocked by the high number of rockets indiscriminately launched" on civilian suburbs of government-held Aleppo.

"Those who argue that this is meant to relieve the siege of eastern Aleppo should be reminded that nothing justifies the use of disproportionate and indiscriminate weapons, including heavy ones, on civilian areas and it could amount to war crimes," Mr De Mistura said.

Sunday's shelling came on the third day of the insurgent offensive that aims to breach a government siege on Aleppo's rebel-held eastern districts, apparently aiming to push out government troops from frontline areas.

A tight siege has been in place since July, trapping nearly 275,000 civilians in eastern rebel-held Aleppo. The dividing lines between government-held and rebel-controlled Aleppo are often streets lined with deserted buildings or extended plastic sheets to mark rival turfs.

Russia and the Syrian government have halted their airstrikes on the eastern rebel-held part of Aleppo since last week to allow for evacuation of wounded and civilians. But no evacuation took place and efforts to allow medical and food supplies into the besieged area also faltered. Meanwhile, pro-government troops kept up a ground offensive against rebel-held areas.

Ibrahim al-Haj, a member of the first responders team, the Syrian Civil Defence that operates in rebel-held Aleppo, said government artillery shelling killed three people and wounded seven on Sunday.

The cycle of violence in the contested city has only escalated after US-Russia efforts failed to secure an internationally monitored ceasefire.

"The civilians of both sides of Aleppo have suffered enough due to futile but lethal attempts of subduing the city of Aleppo," Mr De Mistura said. "They now need and deserve a stable ceasefire covering this ancient city of Syria."

Opposition fighters also advanced into the frontline district of al-Hamadaniyeh where Syrian state news agency SANA said 48 people were later treated for breathing difficulties. Rebels denied using chemcial weapons.

A Syrian military official said the government was reinforcing its positions in and around the city to repel rebel advances.

The Observatory director Rami Abdurrahman said about 1,000 government artillery troops arrived in Aleppo from central Syria on Saturday to take part in the counter offensive.


Press Association

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