Airstrikes on Aleppo in new Syria offensive

Source:Reuters Published: 2016/9/24 0:48:40

Witnesses say Russian planes blast rebel positions

Warplanes launched some of the heaviest airstrikes yet on rebel-held areas of Aleppo on Friday after the Russian-backed Syrian army declared an offensive to fully capture Syria's biggest city, killing off any hope of reviving a cease-fire.

Residents said the streets were deserted as the 250,000 people still trapped in the besieged opposition-held sector of Aleppo sought shelter from jets. The army said the operation would include a ground attack, and could last "for some time."

The rebels and the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring body described raids by warplanes they said must belong to Russia. Residents also spoke of attacks by helicopters using bombs made from oil drums, a tactic usually attributed to the Syrian army.

"Can you hear it? The neighborhood is getting hit right now by missiles. We can hear the planes right now," said Muhammad Abu Rajab, a radiologist. "The planes are not leaving the sky, helicopters, barrel bombs, warplanes."

The intense bombardment left no doubt that the ­Syrian government of President Bashar al-Assad and its Russian allies had spurned a plea from US Secretary of State John Kerry to halt flights to resurrect the cease-fire, which lasted a week before collapsing on Monday.

A rebel commander said the blasts were the fiercest the city had faced.

"I woke up to a powerful earthquake though I was in a place far away from where the missile landed," he said in a voice recording. His group had "martyrs under the rubble" in three locations.

In a late night announcement on Thursday, the Syrian military said "the start of its operations in the eastern districts of Aleppo," and warned people to stay away from "the headquarters and positions of the armed terrorist gangs."

Elaborating on this on Friday, a military source said the offensive would be a "comprehensive one," with a ground assault following air and artillery bombardment. "With respect to the air or artillery strikes, they may continue for some time," it said.

There was no immediate comment from the Russian or Syrian militaries detailing Friday's airstrikes.

The Syrian army's declaration of the offensive coincided with international meetings on Syria in New York, the latest diplomatic efforts officially intended to revive the truce, which was brokered by the US and Russia.

Posted in: Mid-East

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