Assad forces again pound Aleppo’s rebel strongholds
At least 11 dead in 2nd day of attacks, says rescue group
BEIRUT — Syrian government warplanes and artillery pounded rebel-held districts of Aleppo for the second day Wednesday, killing at least 11 people and damaging two hospitals, a blood bank and several residential buildings in the city’s eastern neighborhoods.
Residents rushed for cover and doctors cowered with their patients in a hospital basement amid the relentless onslaught. Local activists said they counted about 50 artillery and airstrikes.
The resumption of airstrikes on besieged Aleppo began Tuesday as Russia announced its much-anticipated offensive in Syria’s north and central Homs province. Meanwhile, activists reported the airstrikes on besieged Aleppo.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said at least 32 civilians have been killed since the bombardment resumed Tuesday after a nearly fourweek respite for the city’s eastern, rebel-held quarters.
The local Civil Defense rescue group, also known as White Helmets, reported that 11 civilians were killed in the Sukkari neighborhood Wednesday.
Survivors described the horrific assault, and videos posted on social media showed rescuers working through the afternoon to pull victims from the rubble of bombed buildings.
Ibrahim al-Haj of the Civil Defense said one paramedic had been killed.
Adham Sahloul of the Syrian American Medical Society, which supports several hospitals in opposition areas in Syria, said it An injured boy makes his way in Aleppo after an airstrike Wednesday. Over 300,000 people have died in the war. appeared the government was focusing its fire on Aleppo’s medical infrastructure. There are only five functioning trauma facilities left in eastern Aleppo, he said.
The Independent Doctors Association, which supports several facilities in Syria, said eastern Aleppo’s central blood bank was struck in Wednesday’s attacks, as well as a children’s hospital supported by the association.
“Me and my staff and all the patients are sitting in one room in the basement right now,” a pediatrician who identified himself as Dr. Hatem posted in a note that was cited by the association. “We will try to get out when the airstrikes leave our sky. Pray for us please.”
The U.N. estimates that pro- government forces have trapped some 275,000 people in Aleppo’s eastern quarters in a blockade enforced since August as ground and air forces pound the area’s hospitals. The U.N. warned last week that food rations inside Aleppo’s rebel-held districts could be depleted this week.
Syrian President Bashar Assad said in an interview broadcast Tuesday with Portugal’s state-run RTP television channel that his forces were fighting to liberate civilians from “terror- ists,” while most of the rebels in Aleppo, numbering around 8,000 according to the U.N., are Syrians who have been fighting to overthrow Assad.
Assad also identified U.S. President- elect Donald Trump as a possible “natural ally,” if he turned out to be “genuine” about his commitment to fight terror in Syria.
Trump has indicated he would prioritize defeating the Islamic State group in Syria over regime change, saying the rebels could be “worse” than the sitting president.
Elsewhere in Syria’s north, Turkish-backed Syrian opposition forces inched closer to taking the town of al-Bab, 22 miles northeast of Aleppo, from the Islamic State, known as ISIS, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Wednesday. He said opposition fighters were about a mile from al-Bab.
Ankara sent ground forces into northern Syria in August, vowing to clear the border area of both ISIS and Syrian Kurdish militias.
Erdogan also said that U.S.-backed Syrian Kurdish fighters — whom Turkey views as terrorists — would soon leave the town of Manbij, in keeping with a purported U.S. promise to Turkey.