New strikes in Aleppo as Syria an­nounces of­fen­sive

Malta Independent - - WORLD -

War­planes have launched fresh air strikes in Aleppo, hours af­ter Syria’s gov­ern­ment an­nounced an of­fen­sive to re­take rebel-held ar­eas of the city.

Syr­ian and Rus­sian planes were pound­ing eastern Aleppo, ac­cord­ing to ac­tivists. A res­cue worker de­scribed what was hap­pen­ing as “an­ni­hi­la­tion”.

The gov­ern­ment has urged peo­ple to avoid po­si­tions held by rebels. Rus­sia has not con­firmed its in­volve­ment.

US-Rus­sian talks to re­vive a col­lapsed truce have bro­ken up with­out progress.

Rus­sia sup­ports the Syr­ian gov­ern­ment, while the US backs the op­po­si­tion. The two world pow­ers ac­cuse each other of fail­ing to rein in their re­spec­tive al­lies on the ground.

The White Hel­mets, a Syr­ian vol­un­teer res­cue group, says dozens of air strikes were car­ried out in Aleppo yes­ter­day morn­ing.

It says the cen­tres set up to help vic­tims of bom­bard­ments were be­ing tar­geted, and three out of four had been put out of ac­tion.

An­nounc­ing the new of­fen­sive on state tele­vi­sion late on Thurs­day, the gov­ern­ment warned Aleppo res­i­dents to “stay away” from “ter­ror­ist po­si­tions”.

It was un­clear whether the new of­fen­sive would in­volve ground troops. But army of­fi­cials said there would be exit points for any­one, in­clud­ing rebels, who wanted to flee. The warn­ing came af­ter days of air strikes on Aleppo. Syria de­clared the week-long cease­fire over on Mon­day. Res­i­dents said ear­lier this week that bar­rel bombs had struck re­bel­held dis­tricts, caus­ing many fires. Dozens of civil­ians were re­ported to have been killed.

Thurs­day night’s meet­ing in New York brought to­gether mem­bers of the In­ter­na­tional Syria Sup­port Group, which in­cludes the US, Rus­sia and other pow­ers.

Af­ter the talks broke down with­out agree­ment, UN en­voy for Syria Staffan de Mis­tura de­scribed them as “painful and dis­ap­point­ing”.

US Sec­re­tary of State John Kerry said Wash­ing­ton could not be the only one try­ing to hold open the door to peace.

Rus­sian For­eign Min­is­ter Sergei Lavrov ac­cused US-backed rebels of ig­nor­ing the truce, and said a new one would amount to a “uni­lat­eral pause”.

Also on Thurs­day, Syr­ian Pres­i­dent Bashar al-As­sad de­nied claims that he was re­spon­si­ble for the on­go­ing fight­ing.

In an in­ter­view with the As­so­ci­ated Press news agency, he reaf­firmed his gov­ern­ment’s po­si­tion that a deadly strike on an aid con­voy in Aleppo on Mon­day had not been car­ried out by Syr­ian or Rus­sian planes.

Mr As­sad also ridiculed con­cern about the army’s use of bar­rel bombs, say­ing: “What’s the dif­fer­ence be­tween dif­fer­ent kinds of bombs? All bombs are to kill, but it’s about how to use it. When you use ar­ma­ment... you kill ter­ror­ists in or­der to de­fend civil­ians.”

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