Assad-Russian jets have continued their intensive airstrikes on eastern Aleppo for the third day, killing at least 35 civilians on Saturday, according to a monitor and activists.
Assad regime said on Thursday it was starting a new wide offensive to recapture the rebel-held parts of Aleppo after a week-long ceasefire was decalred officially over on Monday. the offensive includes a ground assault, artillery bombardment, and intensive airstrikes.
Since last Monday, at least 180 people have been killed in rebel-held areas of Aleppo province, including the besieged eastern part of the city, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said on Saturday.
The assault on Aleppo, where more than 250,000 civilians are trapped in a besieged opposition sector, could be the biggest battle yet during the sic-year crisis.
Residents say air strikes on eastern Aleppo have been more intense than ever, using more powerful bombs. Rebel officials said heavy air strikes on Saturday hit at least four areas of the opposition-held east, and they believe the strikes are mostly being carried out by Russian warplanes. Video of the blast sites shows huge craters several meters wide and deep.
“There are planes in the sky now,” Ammar al Selmo, the head of the Civil Defence rescue service in the opposition-held east, told Reuters from Aleppo on Saturday morning.
The group draws on ambulance workers and volunteers who dig survivors and the dead out of the rubble, often with their bare hands. It says several of its own headquarters have been destroyed in the latest bombing. “Our teams are responding but are not enough to cover this amount of catastrophe,” Selmo said.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said at least 45 people, among them 10 children, were killed in eastern Aleppo on Saturday. Selmo put the two-day death toll at more than 200.
The Syrian army said it is targeting rebel positions in the city and denied hitting civilians.
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More destruction than ever
The attack has drawn on ordinance more destructive than anything previously used against the area, and many buildings have been entirely destroyed, residents say.
“They are using weapons that appear to be specifically for [bringing down] buildings,” said a senior official in an Aleppo-based rebel faction, the Levant Front. “Most of the victims are under the rubble because more than half the civil defence has been forced out of service.”
“We don’t have the equipment to pull the corpses out,” a resident said, standing on the rubble of a destroyed building in the city’s al-Bab district.
Describing the horror around him, he said an entire family was killed in a strike, with several people still lying under the debris.
“We are trying to help the injured, those who survived … but the situation is catastrophic. Destruction and death, everywhere around us. It seems that the Russians and the regime have been given a green light to slaughter us all. As if starving the people here was not enough – it’s now mass murder.”
On Friday, video images filmed by residents showed a young girl screaming as rescuers frantically dug her out of rubble, pulling her out alive. Another showed rescuers digging out a toddler with their bare hands, shouting “God is Great” as they lifted him from the debris. The boy showed no signs of life as he was rushed off in a rescuer’s arms.
Several residents said explosions had struck with far greater force than anything that had hit the city in the past, making bigger craters and bringing entire buildings down.
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emergency service centers destroyed
The raids on Friday, part of a new Assad regime’s offensive to recapture rebel-held parts of Aleppo, destroyed emergency service structures, as well as underground shelters used by civilians to hide from bombings while killing at least 90 civilians.
At least 30 neighbourhoods were targeted, activist Amr al-Halabi reporting from the city said, adding that the relentless bombardment was hampering the ability of rescue workers to help civilians caught up in the fighting.
Three centers for a volunteer rescue group known as the White Helmets were also hit in the raids, while at least 40 residential buildings were destroyed.
“We have four centres in eastern Aleppo. The aircraft targeted three centres. Two of them are now out of service,” Abdul Rahman al-Hassani, of the White Helmets, told Al Jazeera.
He added that five vehicles belonging to the White Helmets were destroyed, including an ambulance.
“Our centres were the direct target [of the strikes],” Hassani said.
Ammar al Selmo, the head of Civil Defence, said the rescuers themselves were targeted, with three of their four centers in Aleppo hit.
The Syrian crisis began as a peaceful demonstration against the injustice in Syria. Assad regime used to fire power and violence against the civilians and led to armed resistance. 450.000 Syrians lost their lives in the past five years according to UN estimates, and more than 12 million have lost their homes.