Missiles rained down on rebel-held areas of Syria’s Aleppo yesterday, causing widespread destruction that overwhelmed rescue teams, as the regime army prepared a ground offensive.
Nearly 30 civilians, including several children, were killed and dozens wounded in the raids by Russian warplanes and regime aircraft, said the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based monitoring group.
The intensity of the bombardment, which included artillery barrages and barrel bombings by helicopters, brought new misery to the estimated 250,000 civilians besieged by the regime army.
The escalation came after US Secretary of State John Kerry failed to reach an agreement with Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov on Thursday on terms to salvage a failed ceasefire.
The two met again yesterday at the United Nations and made what Kerry said was “a little bit of progress” on resolving their differences on Syria.
“We’re evaluating some mutual ideas in a constructive way, period,” Kerry told reporters.
Asked at the UN earlier whether the truce could be reinstated, Lavrov simply said: “You should ask the Americans.”
He later told the UN General Assembly that US-Russian agreements aimed at ending the Syria conflict must be salvaged, saying there was “no alternative” to the process.
“Now it is essential to prevent a disruption of these agreements,” Lavrov said.
Thursday’s Kerry-Lavrov talks in New York broke up after Russia refused US demands that it promise to immediately ground the Syrian regime’s air force.
Also in New York, French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault accused Syrian President Bashar al-Assad of “playing the card of a partition” of his country with the Aleppo offensive.
The Syrian opposition coalition, meanwhile, condemned the regime’s Russian-backed “criminal campaign... targeting the besieged residential districts of Aleppo”.
An AFP journalist in rebel-held east Aleppo reported relentless air raids and artillery fire on Thursday night and yesterday morning.
Medical charity Doctors Without Borders (MSF), which supports hospitals in Aleppo, said the city’s residents “already suffocating under the effects of the siege, have yet again come under horrific attack”.
“In many areas, the wounded and sick have nowhere to go at all - they are simply left to die,” said Carlos Francisco, the MSF head of mission in Syria.
An AFP correspondent inside the city said the barrage had flattened entire apartment blocks, overwhelming rescue teams from the White Helmets civil defence organisation.
In the Al-Kalasseh district, three buildings were levelled by a single strike, and rescue workers tried frantically to reach survivors using a single bulldozer and their bare hands.
The White Helmets’ headquarters in the Ansari district was badly damaged and a second centre operated by the group was also hit.
Rescue workers told AFP their stock of diesel was down to 2,000 litres, forcing them to ration fuel and make choices on when to intervene.
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