Syria Army Retakes Aleppo District as Bombs Rain Down

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Syria's army took control of a rebel-held district in central Aleppo on Tuesday, after days of heavy air strikes that have killed dozens and sparked allegations of war crimes.

In the first advance since announcing plans last week to retake all of the divided city, pro-government troops seized the Farafira district northwest of Aleppo's historic citadel, a military source told AFP.

"After neutralizing many terrorists... units are now demining the area," the source said.

The push follows several days of Syrian and Russian air strikes on rebel-held Aleppo neighborhoods -- some of the fiercest bombardment of the five-year conflict so far -- after a ceasefire deal brokered by Moscow and Washington collapsed last week.

The Aleppo maelstrom prompted Western powers to accuse Russia of committing possible war crimes, charges the Kremlin condemned as "unacceptable."

In the latest broadside, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg also condemned the air campaign.

"The appalling attacks on Aleppo have shaken all of us, and the violence and the attacks we have seen... is morally totally unacceptable and is a blatant violation of international law," Stoltenberg told a news conference in Bratislava.

On the ground in eastern Aleppo, an AFP correspondent said air strikes struck several neighborhoods simultaneously, including in al-Shaar, where a five-story building was leveled with a family stuck inside. 

One young girl, her body encased in rubble, was among the dead. Her father, in shock as rescue workers picked up her lifeless body, collapsed beside, saying: "She's just sleeping. She's just used to sleeping."

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a monitor, said that more than 155 people have been killed by Russian and regime bombardment on Aleppo city since the government announced its offensive last week. 

At least 11 civilians were killed Tuesday in raids on the neighborhoods of al-Shaar and al-Mashhad, according to the Britain-based group. 

As well as the intensified violence, residents have been left reeling from food shortages and skyrocketing prices.

The World Health Organization warned Tuesday that medical facilities in east Aleppo were on the verge of "complete destruction".

"Over the last weekend alone, more than 200 people were injured and taken to understaffed health facilities in east Aleppo," a spokeswoman said in Geneva.

The U.N. body called for "an immediate establishment of humanitarian routes to evacuate sick and wounded from the eastern part of the city."

- 'Absolutely unacceptable' -

The Observatory said that there were "significantly fewer" strikes on Aleppo on Tuesday than in recent days, but confirmed the advance by pro-government forces into Farafira. 

Aleppo has been roughly divided between government control in the west and rebel control in the east since mid-2012, and the frontline has remained largely static despite continuous violence.

Earlier this month, a ceasefire went into effect across Syria, brokered after exhaustive talks between U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov. 

It was dubbed by Kerry as the "last chance" to end more than five years of devastating conflict. 

But it fell apart within a week, with each side blaming the other for the latest failure in a war that has cost more than 300,000 lives since March 2011.

Analysts said Tuesday that the unprecedented ferocity with which Aleppo has been hit in recent days suggested that Moscow was backing the Syrian government's aim to totally recapture the city.

"Russia has decided to go all out because it no longer believes in the possibility of collaborating with the United States in Syria," said Fabrice Balanche, a Syria expert at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

At an emergency session of the U.N. Security Council on Sunday, U.S. ambassador Samantha Power accused Russia of "barbarism", while both the British and French envoys went further, alleging the bombing of Aleppo constituted possible war crimes.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Tuesday that violence in Aleppo was on an "absolutely unacceptable scale" and that it was up to Russia and Syria to ensure humanitarian aid could reach the battered city.

Comments 7
Thumb shab 27 September 2016, 18:23

What episode is this?

Missing humble 27 September 2016, 18:35

They want it as part of Alawistan. Homs also.

Thumb Southern...... 27 September 2016, 18:47

you right! much better than to be part of IS or greater Israel.

Thumb oompa-loompas 27 September 2016, 20:03

Is this a weekly thing now, retaking Aleppo? Hassan was sure it was already done months ago.

Thumb .mowaten. 27 September 2016, 20:32

take your meds, you're losing it, again.

Thumb .mowaten. 27 September 2016, 20:31

lol at your empty threats. your scumbag terrorist friends would have done it long ago if they could
they're done in aleppo, i told you so a few weeks ago, and told you their desperate attempt to breach the siege would not save them. the desperate attempt by kerry didnt save them either, this is why they are fuming in rage and throwing all sorts of "war crimes" accusations at russia. whille we laugh.

Thumb oompa-loompas 27 September 2016, 21:45

Hahaha how drole how drole and so very original! You must be one of those mystical "highly educated" ones often mentioned seldom seen, you know the ones who, we are told, were able to go as far as 5th grade and actuary complete it without cheating. Now do me a favor oh learned one, go jump up and down smash yourself about the head with a stick like you want to do, who knows it might break open and candy falls out.