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New Wave Of Air Strikes On Aleppo As Damascus Prepares Offensive

By RFE/RL September 24, 2016

Warplanes have mounted a new wave of air strikes on rebel-held areas of Aleppo as part of a planned major offensive by the Russian-backed Syrian military.

Ammar al-Selmo, the head of Civil Defense in the opposition-held east, told Reuters on September 24 that "unfortunately it continues. There are planes in the sky now."

The director of the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, Rami Abdulrahman, told Reuters "the raids are intense and continuous."

Aleppo residents say air and missile attacks are using ordnance more destructive than anything previously deployed in the area, and many buildings have been destroyed. Images of blast sites show craters several meters wide and deep.

A senior official in an Aleppo-based rebel faction, the Levant Front, told Reuters the weapons appeared designed to bring down entire buildings.

The Syrian Army says it is targeting rebel positions in the city and denies hitting civilians.

The United States and Russia failed in talks on September 23 to reestablish a cease-fire in Syria amid a day of massive air attacks on rebel-held areas of Aleppo which reportedly killed dozens of people.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry reported "little progress" in getting a truce after talks in New York with Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov.

Lavrov said September 24 that a revival of a cease-fire in Syria depends on all sides involved and not only on "Russia's unilateral concessions."

"One can only speak about the cease-fire revival on the collective basis," he said in an interview for the TV news show Vesti.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported at least 30 air strikes had targeted different areas of Aleppo during the early morning of September 23 and said at least 27 civilians had been killed with dozens of others wounded and others still lying under rubble.

The Syrian military, which is backed by the Russian air force, announced late September 22 it was starting a new operation against the rebel-held eastern part of the city, which is home to at least 250,000 people.

An army source told Reuters on September 23 that the offensive would be "comprehensive," with a ground assault following air and artillery bombardment.

In an apparent prelude to the ground operation, Syrian government forces captured a rebel-held area north of Aleppo on September 24.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, citing rebel leaders and Syrian state media, said the capture of Handarat camp "comes as a result of intensive bombardment by regime forces and the fierce, continuous bombardment by Russian and regime warplanes."

Source: http://www.rferl.org/a/air-strikes-aleppo-syria- offensive/28010500.html

Copyright (c) 2016. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.

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