As­sad forces again pound Aleppo’s rebel strongholds

At least 11 dead in 2nd day of at­tacks, says res­cue group

Baltimore Sun - - NATION & WORLD - By Philip Issa

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.


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