Renewed air strikes on rebel-held parts of the Syrian city of Aleppo and the neighbouring countryside have killed at least 14 people, activists on the ground say, while rebel shelling of a government-held neighbourhood in the south hit a school, killing five children.
Opposition-held east Aleppo, which is home to around 250,000 residents trapped in the area by regime siege barricades, has been subjected to unprecedented shelling by the Russian-backed Syrian government since a seven-day internationally brokered ceasefire collapsed in September.
Leaflets were dropped on east Aleppo last week which said the bombing would ease to allow civilians to leave, but several residents reported that the siege barricades remained up.
The relative calm ended on Tuesday with intense strikes which the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says killed 16 people, including three children, and injured 20. Activists on the ground put the figure as high as 40.
In the most deadly development, “bunker buster” ground-penetrating bombs fell on Bustan al-Qasr neighborhood, killing at least eight people. Rescue workers were still looking for people trapped under rubble as night fell on Tuesday.
Activists sent photos to journalists of two small children wrapped in white sheets, their faces bruised and covered in dust, whom they said died in the incident. Reconnaissance planes were still circling over the city as dawn broke on Wednesday, the Aleppo Media Centre said.
The strikes came at the same time as the UK parliament met for a three-hour emergency debate on what can be done to reinstate a ceasefire in the Syrian conflict. Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said that “the wells of outrage are growing exhausted” over Russia’s continued defiance of international law in assisting the Syrian government in strikes, which he said amount to war crimes.
A Downing Street spokesperson later said that the prospect of implementing a no-fly-zone with Russian aircraft operating in the same space would be a “potentially very difficult and challenging situation.”
The renewed campaign to retake Aleppo has been met with fierce international criticism for the indiscriminate use of particularly deadly munitions such as bunker busters on built-up areas. More than 300 people have died in the recent shelling, and civilian infrastructure such as hospitals and water treatment centres destroyed.
The assault has been followed up with ground troops, causing clashes in several key access points to rebel areas and in the historic city centre as government forces slowly advance.
President Bashar al-Assad has vowed to retake his entire country from “terrorists”.
Fighting has also intensified on several other fronts in the five-and-a-half year long war.
In Daraa on the outskirts of the capital Damascus – once a rebel stronghold – rebel rockets hit a primary school, killing five children and an adult, and wounding 18 others, Syrian state media, Sana, reported. Video footage showed children admitted to hospital for their injuries.
Sana also reported rare shelling of government-held neighbourhoods in the centre of Damascus, which wounded an unknown number of people.
Join our commenting forum
Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies