Mon­i­tor: 74 killed in 8 days of Aleppo rebel of­fen­sive

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

At least 74 civil­ians, in­clud­ing 25 chil­dren, were killed in the 8-day-old of­fen­sive launched by Syr­ian op­po­si­tion fight­ers against the western edge of the gov­ern­ment-held part of Aleppo city, a Syr­ian op­po­si­tion mon­i­tor­ing group said yes­ter­day.

Op­po­si­tion fight­ers launched the pro­tracted at­tack on Oct 28 on gov­ern­men­theld Aleppo, aim­ing to break a month­s­long gov­ern­ment-im­posed siege on the eastern part of the city they con­trol. They have since ad­vanced on a num­ber of neigh­bor­hoods on the city’s western edge, cap­tur­ing al-As­sad district and Minian vil­lage as pro-gov­ern­ment forces fought back to re­gain con­trol. The Syr­ian mil­i­tary said the first three days of the rebel of­fen­sive left more than 80 peo­ple killed. It was not im­me­di­ately pos­si­ble to rec­on­cile the dis­crep­ancy in ca­su­alty fig­ures.

Rights groups and the UN have sharply crit­i­cized the op­po­si­tion groups for the in­dis­crim­i­nate shelling of western Aleppo dis­tricts that re­sulted in a num­ber of civil­ian deaths. Such crit­i­cism has largely been re­served for the gov­ern­ment and its al­lies for in­dis­crim­i­nate bomb­ing of res­i­den­tial ar­eas. Prior to the rebel of­fen­sive and in less than a month, more than 400 civil­ians, many of them chil­dren, have been killed in bomb­ings that also hit a school and med­i­cal fa­cil­i­ties, and nearly 2,000 wounded in rebel-held Aleppo and sur­round­ing ar­eas. The Ob­ser­va­tory said yes­ter­day that three civil­ian deaths were recorded in rebel-held Aleppo dis­tricts in the past week. Rus­sia had de­clared a halt on airstrikes on the be­sieged part of the city since Oct18. But there were re­ports of airstrikes on the city’s edge and in ru­ral ar­eas.

Pun­ish­ing aerial cam­paign

On Fri­day, a re­newed 10-hour Rus­sian of­fer of a mora­to­rium on airstrikes on rebel-held parts of Aleppo ex­pired. None of the area’s es­ti­mated 275,000 res­i­dents evac­u­ated the ter­ri­tory, as was urged by Rus­sian and Syr­ian of­fi­cials. There were fears that a pun­ish­ing aerial cam­paign would re­sume on the city af­ter the ex­pi­ra­tion. But early af­ter­noon yes­ter­day, there were no re­ports of airstrikes in the city.

How­ever, Syr­ian ac­tivists re­ported airstrikes on western ru­ral Aleppo province against rebel po­si­tions. Footage from the ac­tivist-run Thiqa News Agency al­legedly showed mis­siles tar­get­ing the town of Darat Izza in north­west­ern Aleppo province. A team of first re­spon­ders known as the Syr­ian Civil De­fense, or White Hel­mets, said at least three peo­ple were killed in the airstrikes and 15 oth­ers wounded. There has been an in­tense aerial bomb­ing cam­paign in the western Aleppo coun­try­side and nearby Idlib province. Rebels said it ap­peared to be an at­tempt to sever the rebels sup­ply lines.

An in­sur­gent al­liance, known as the Army of Con­quest and which in­cludes the Al-Qaeda-linked group Fatah Al-Sham Front, has led the at­tack on western Aleppo. It is the sec­ond time in­sur­gents have tried to break the siege im­posed on the ter­ri­tory since July. An ear­lier of­fen­sive that breached the siege in Au­gust for a few weeks was re­pelled, and the seal on eastern Aleppo re-im­posed.

Abu Saeed Al-Hal­abi, a Dutch mem­ber of Fatah Al-Sham based in Aleppo, said Rus­sia has in­ten­si­fied its airstrikes dur­ing the in­sur­gent-led of­fen­sive on Aleppo’s western coun­try­side, “the pro­posed end des­ti­na­tion” for the po­ten­tial evac­uees from eastern Aleppo. He said that the aerial cam­paign has not cur­tailed the rebel of­fen­sive. “This of­fen­sive will take longer than pre­vi­ous ones be­cause the at­tacks take place in ur­ban ar­eas and the regime mili­tias have a lot to lose if this siege is bro­ken,” he told The As­so­ci­ated Press in a text mes­sage from Aleppo. — AP

ALEPPO: This frame grab from video pro­vided by Thiqa news agency, a Syr­ian op­po­si­tion me­dia out­let that is con­sis­tent with in­de­pen­dent AP re­port­ing, shows flames rises from an ex­plo­sive ve­hi­cle bomb that at­tacked a Syr­ian gov­ern­ment po­si­tion, in south­west of Aleppo, Syria, Fri­day, Oct, 28, 2016. — AP

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