Aleppo air strikes kill 20 in rebel-held east- monitor

by Reuters
Wednesday, 16 November 2016 11:39 GMT

A damaged ambulance is pictured after an airstrike on the rebel-held town of Atareb, in the countryside west of Aleppo, Syria November 15, 2016. REUTERS/Ammar Abdullah

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BEIRUT, Nov 16 (Reuters) - Air strikes hit near a children's hospital and a school in rebel-held eastern Aleppo on Wednesday in the second day of renewed bombing that has killed at least 20 people, a war monitor, medics, and emergency workers said.

The air strikes are part of a wider escalation by the Syrian government and its allies including Russia, which launched coordinated missile strikes against rebels in Syria on Tuesday and for the first time used its only aircraft carrier.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based war monitor, said the air strikes on eastern Aleppo had killed at least five children and an emergency worker. They were carried out by either Russian or Syrian jets, it said.

Moscow has denied reports that its jets hit the city in the renewed wave of bombardment. It says it is sticking to a moratorium on strikes in Aleppo.

The Observatory said districts struck included Shaar, Sukkari and Karam al-Beik.

Tuesday's bombing on eastern Aleppo appeared to mark the end of a pause inside the city declared by Russia on Oct. 18.

The Observatory and residents said the city's east was hit by rocket strikes by jets, barrel bombs dropped from helicopters and artillery fired by government forces.

"The helicopters won't stop for a single moment," Bebars Mishal, a Civil Defense worker in rebel-held Aleppo, told Reuters. "Right now, the bombing won't let up."

The Civil Defence is a volunteer rescue service that operates in rebel-held areas.

BOMBED NEIGHBOURHOODS

The bombing hit the surroundings of a children's hospital in the Shaar neighbourhood and of a school in the Salah al-Din neighbourhood, the Observatory said.

"We woke up to the bombing and until now, the warplanes and helicopters are running," said Modar Shekho, a nurse in eastern Aleppo. "The Shaar neighbourhood was burned down between yesterday and today."

Ibrahim Abu al-Laith, a Civil Defence official, said more than 40 air strikes had hit the Shaar area. "Today the bombardment is very, very fierce," he said.

Syrian state television said on Tuesday the Damascus government's air force took part in strikes against what it called terrorist strongholds in Aleppo's Old City.

Russia said it had struck Islamic State and former Nusra Front sites elsewhere in Syria, without mentioning Aleppo.

State-owned Ikhabariyah television reported large troop deployments along several main fronts in the Aleppo theatre in preparation for a major ground offensive that it said was imminent and awaiting "zero hour" to begin.

Aleppo has become the major front in Syria's 5-1/2-year war pitting President Bashar al-Assad, supported by Russia, Iran and Shi'ite militias, against mostly Sunni rebels including groups backed by Turkey, the United States and Gulf monarchies.

Aleppo has for years been divided between the government-held western sector and rebel-held east, which the Syrian army and its allies besieged during the summer. Its allied forces include Iran's Revolutionary Guards, Lebanon's Hezbollah and Iraqi Shi'ite militias. (Reporting by Ellen Francis in Beirut, Additional reporting by Jack Stubbs in Moscow; Editing by Tom Heneghan)

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