Syria rebels keep up of­fen­sive on western Aleppo

Pakistan Observer - - FRONT PAGE -

BEIRUT—Syr­ian in­sur­gents on Sun­day kept up their shelling of gov­ern­ment-con­trolled ar­eas of Aleppo, killing at least seven peo­ple, in­clud­ing three chil­dren, state TV re­ported, and push­ing their way with car bombs and tanks into new ter­ri­tory in the western part of the city. The Syr­ian gov­ern­ment claimed 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, an op­po­si­tion mon­i­tor­ing group that has a net­work of ac­tivists in rebel and gov­ern­ment con­trolled ar­eas in Syria. The Ob­ser­va­tory said hun­dreds of mor­tars were lobbed. 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,” 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 re­bel­con­trolled Aleppo are of­ten streets lined with de­serted build­ings or ex­tended plas­tic sheets to mark ri­val turfs.

Imad al-Khal, a 63-year old res­i­dent of western Aleppo, said there was fierce shelling over the past three days. “We are hear­ing now strong shelling by mil­i­tary jets and the ar­tillery,” he said.

A state TV pre­sen­ter, Shadi Halwi, said in a video post on his Face­book page that for the first time in gov­ern­ment-held Aleppo, “the sound of clashes is strong, very loud.” Rus­sia and the Syr­ian gov­ern­ment have halted their airstrikes on the east­ern re­bel­held 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, pro­gov­ern­ment troops kept up a ground of­fen­sive against rebel-held ar­eas.

Ibrahim al-Haj, a mem­ber of the first re­spon­ders team the Syr­ian Civil De­fense that op­er­ates in rebel-held Aleppo, said airstrikes Sun­day on dis­tricts near the front line caused ma­te­rial dam­age. He also said gov­ern­ment ar­tillery shelling killed three peo­ple and wounded seven Sun­day.

A day ear­lier, ar­tillery shelling killed a mem­ber of the civil de­fense team, also known as White Hel­mets, al-Haj said. Ibrahim Hus­sein, 34 and fa­ther of three, was killed when shrap­nel hit his head as he was res­cu­ing oth­ers fol­low­ing shelling in al-Sukkari neigh­bor­hood, al-Haj said.

The cy­cle of vi­o­lence in the con­tested city has only es­ca­lated af­ter U.S.-Rus­sia ef­forts failed to se­cure an in­ter­na­tion­ally mon­i­tored cease-fire. “The civil­ians of both sides of Aleppo have suf­fered enough due to fu­tile but lethal at­tempts of sub­du­ing the city of Aleppo,” De Mis­tura said. “They now need and de­serve a sta­ble cease­fire cov­er­ing this an­cient city of Syria.”—AP

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