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Syria, Russia pound rebel-held Aleppo in 'unprecedented' aerial assault

Watch now: The White Helmets HQ was targeted on Friday [AFP]

Date of publication: 23 September, 2016

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Video: Syrian and Russian warplanes have pounded rebel-held areas of Aleppo, after the army announced a new offensive aimed at retaking all of the divided second city.
Syrian and Russian warplanes pounded rebel-held areas of Aleppo on Friday, after the army announced a new offensive aimed at retaking all of the divided second city.

At least 90 strikes hit the rebel-held east of the city during the night and early on Friday, killing at least 30 people and wounding dozens of others.

"Russian and Syrian aircraft have carried out around 90 air raids on residential districts of Aleppo city and the surrounding areas, leading to the deaths of more than 30 civilians, including women and children," Civil Defence press officer, Ibrahim al-Hajj, told The New Arab.

"The death toll is expected to rise because the rescue teams are ill-equipped to handle the in the unprecedented scale of the bombardment and destruction."

Amid the intense campaign, it has become even more deadly for the civil defence teams to move.

Already suffering from a shortage of fuel, their vehicles have been hard pressed to meet the increased demand on their services.

The raids have come after the Syrian army announced late on Thursday that it was launching a new offensive to retake rebel-held parts of the city.

Zouhir al-Shimale, a journalist and The New Arab contributor in east Aleppo said that an entire family in the Bustan al-Qasr neighbourhood were killed in an air raid and that other families were still trapped under rubble.

"Yesterday night, regime forces said they were about to encounter eastern Aleppo – they have been attacking the city ever since the truce ended, with hundreds of airstrikes with all kinds of weapons, including cluster bombs and barrel bombs," Shimale said.

"Yesterday was a bit more of a calm night – some airstrikes took place in areas across the city. People here stay in their houses from sunset, even though they might die anytime under a pile of rubble.

"Today, as yesterday, warplanes started to hit the city from 6am. Planes and helicopters are still flying, taking turns to destroy what remains of this already devastated city."

In pictures: White Helmets headquarters targeted as
devastation
wrought across east Aleppo on Friday morning.
 Click here for gallery [Zouhir al-Shimale]

A truce deal hammered out between Russia and the United States briefly halted the violence earlier this month, but it collapsed after just a week without any of the promised deliveries of desperately needed relief supplies.

Hassan is a volunteer with a White Helmets crew. He was in the Civil Defence base in the al-Zubdiya neighbourhood when a helicopter bombed it.

"It was at 7:00 am, and it was a direct targeting," Hassan said. "No one got hurt – we were about to rescue people [after earlier bombing] in the nearby area, but it suddenly hit us... It was an awful morning."

Aleppo was once Syria's commercial and industrial hub but has been ravaged by fighting and roughly divided between government control in the west and rebel control in the east since mid-2012.

Rebel districts have been under siege by the army for most of the past two months after troops overran the last supply lines.

More than 300,000 people have been killed in Syria since the conflict began with anti-government protests in March 2011.

     
     

Cluster bomb remains next to airdropped regime propaganda leaflets in rebel-held Aleppo
[Mohammmad Abu Rajab/Nurse in rebel-held Aleppo]

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