Missiles batter Aleppo as Syria army readies ground assault
Missiles rained down on rebel-held areas of Syria’s Aleppo on Friday, causing widespread destruction, as the army prepared a ground offensive to retake the city.
Nearly 30 civilians, including children, were killed and dozens wounded in the raids carried out by Russian warplanes and regime aircraft, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based monitoring group, said.
It added that the toll could rise as many are feared burried under the rubble.
Intense bombardment, which included artillery barrages and barrel bombings by helicopters, poured misery on an estimated 250,000 civilians besieged by the army. Entire apartment blocks were left flattened, 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 were trying frantically to reach survivors using a single bulldozer and their bare hands.
A military source said the bombardment was in preparation for a ground operation.
“We have begun reconnaissance, aerial and artillery bombardment,” he said.
“This could go on for hours or days before the ground operation starts. The timing of the ground operation will depend on the results of the strikes and the situation on the ground,” he added.
An army officer in Aleppo confirmed that the ground assault had yet to begin.
The escalation came after US Secretary of State John Kerry failed to reach an agreement with his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov on terms to salvage a failed ceasefire.
Asked at the UN if the truce could be reinstated, Lavrov simply said: “You should ask the Americans.”
A US official said no Kerry-Lavrov meeting had yet been scheduled for Friday, “but that could change”.