ALEPPO: Regime aircraft yesterday pounded rebel areas of Syria’s second city Aleppo, which was left out of a deal to freeze fighting despite international outrage over renewed violence. Shelling and air raids in the city over the past week have killed more than 230 civilians and brought a landmark February 27 ceasefire to the verge of collapse.
Despite the carnage, Aleppo has been excluded from a fresh “freeze” in fighting brokered by the United States and Russia. Syria’s armed forces said that the freeze would begin at 1:00 am today and last for 24 hours in Damascus and the nearby rebel bastion of Eastern Ghouta, and 72 hours in the coastal Latakia province. A Syrian security source said the deal was brokered by the US and Russia, but that Moscow had refused a request by Washington to include Aleppo. US special envoy for Syria Michael Ratney said yesterday the agreement was a “general recommitment” to the original truce, “not a new set of local ceasefires”. Violence shook Aleppo for the eighth consecutive day yesterday, as crude barrel bombs crashed into residential neighborhoods amid wailing ambulances.
At least 17 people were killed in regime bombardment of the city’s eastern districts, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said. Rebel groups fired a barrage of rockets on government- controlled western neighborhoods, killing at least 13 people, the monitor said. “The earth is shaking beneath our feet,” one resident of the densely populated Bustan Al-Qasr district told AFP. One raid hit a local clinic in the rebel-held Al-Maja neighborhood, wounding several people including a nurse, the civil defence group known as the White Helmets said. The clinic, which had been providing dental services and treatment for chronic illnesses for about five years, was badly damaged. Medical equipment lay scattered across the clinic’s floor, covered in debris and dust, an AFP correspondent there said.
“We serve civilians in this establishment, there were no fighters here,” said Hassan Al-Ahmad, who heads the clinic. It was the second time this week that an air strike hit one of the few medical facilities still operating in rebel areas. Late Wednesday, air strikes hit the Al-Quds hospital and a nearby block of flats in the Sukkari neighborhood, killing 30 people. Dr Mohammad Wassim Maaz, known as the most qualified pediatrician in eastern Aleppo, was among the dead. “He was friendly, kind and he used to joke a lot with the whole staff. He was the loveliest doctor in our hospital,” Dr Hatem, a colleague, wrote in a letter published by
The Syria Campaign advocacy group. US Secretary of State John Kerry called on Moscow to press its Damascus ally “to stop attacking civilians, medical facilities, and first responders, and to abide fully by the cessation of hostilities.” Al- Quds was supported by both Doctors Without Borders and the International Committee of the Red Cross. The UN’s rights chief yesterday slammed world powers backing opposing sides in Syria. Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein said the renewed violence showed a “monstrous disregard for civilians lives by all parties to the conflict”. “In the minds of many, the world’s great powers have in effect become accomplices to the sacrifice of hundreds of thousands of human beings, and the displacement of millions.” — AFP