The devastating Russian-Syrian military assault on the besieged parts of Aleppo continued Saturday with Russian airstrikes, barrel bombs and a shelling offensive by Syrian ground troops.
Assad regime, backed by Russia, said on Sptember 22 it was starting a new wide offensive to recapture the rebel-held parts of Aleppo after a week-long ceasefire was declared officially over on Monday. the offensive includes a ground assault, artillery bombardment, and intensive airstrikes.
Since 19 September, more than 500 civilians have been killed and more than 1700 injured in rebel-held areas of Aleppo province, including the besieged eastern part of the city, Civil defense workers said.
At least two barrel bombs hit the largest hospital in the rebel-held side of Aleppo, according to the Syrian American Medical Society (SAMS).
“Two barrel bombs hit the M10 hospital and there were reports of a cluster bomb as well,” said Adham Sahloul of the SAMS.
Both M10 and the second-largest hospital in the area, M2, were heavily bombed on Wednesday, attacks that UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon denounced as “war crimes.”
Al JAzeera said there were reports of at least three fatalities.
“We spoke to a member of the White Helmets, they said there was around 60 people inside the hospital being treated at the time,” the report said.
“They say that those people have now been evacuated to a smaller clinic in this area.”
Journalist Amr al Halabi, who assessed the damage on Saturday, said the bodies of the victims could be seen on the hospital grounds.
“They were killed as a result of the raids,” he said. “They were patients here before the strike.”
“One of the rockets dropped just in front of the main entrance of the hospital near the emergency entrance. The hospital has suffered severe damage.”
Hospital manager Dr Abu Rajan told local media that about 10 people at the hospital had been injured after it was hit by barrel bombs – improvised devices dropped from helicopters – cluster munitions, and a chlorine bomb.
“Intensive care unit is out of order and the oxygen concentrator has been severely damaged,” he said.
“Thank God the patients did not get hurt and they were all transferred to different locations.
“But the place is out of service and the medical ventilator has been damaged as well.”
— SAMS (@sams_usa) September 30, 2016
— SAMS (@sams_usa) October 1, 2016
The medical charity Doctors Without Borders has described the indiscriminate bombing of eastern Aleppo by Syrian and Russian forces as a “bloodbath.”
Babiris Meshaal, a civil defense official based in Aleppo, said on Friday that a total of 30 civilians had been killed and many others injured in the airstrike.
At least 30 civilians were also killed overnight in Aleppo, activists told Al Jazeera on Saturday.
A further 18 were killed in air strikes on various towns in Damascus’s eastern countryside, activists said.
— Omar Ibrahim (@Neurosurg_Omar) September 29, 2016
— Omar Ibrahim (@Neurosurg_Omar) September 30, 2016
— شبكة الثورة السورية (@RevolutionSyria) October 1, 2016
Regime forces press on ground attacks
Meanwhile, Russian airstrikes targeted supply lines into rebel-held areas in the Malah district, while fighting continued unabated on the front line in the Suleiman al-Halaby neighborhood, north of Aleppo’s Old City.
Ground offensive by Syrian ground troops also intensified, as they pressed on many fronts in the city.
The Syrian army said it had made advances into the old city, a claim denied by the rebels.
“They are shelling the old city heavily after another failed attempt to gain ground. They have lost several fighters and we are steadfast,” said Abu Hamam, a rebel from the Failaq al-Sham group.
The sides gave conflicting accounts of the outcome of Friday’s fighting.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and a regime’s military source said regime forces had captured territory north of Aleppo and buildings in the city center.
Rebel sources, however, denied there had been any additional advances north of the city by Assad regime forces that seized the Handarat camp area north of Aleppo on Thursday. A rebel official said regme forces had advanced in the Suleiman al-Halabi district of central Aleppo, but was then forced to withdraw.
In the city center, the military said it had advanced in the Suleiman al-Halabi district. Rebel officials said troops had moved forward but had subsequently been forced to withdraw.
A Syrian military source said regime forces captured several buildings in the area and were “continuing to chase the remnants of the terrorists fleeing them”.
— Middle East Observer (@MEOorg) October 1, 2016
— Middle East Observer (@MEOorg) September 30, 2016
The Assad regime forces, backed by Russian air power, Iranian ground forces and Shi’ite militia fighters from Iran, Iraq, and Lebanon, has been tightening its grip on rebel-held districts of Aleppo this year, and this summer achieved a long-held goal of fully encircling the area.
Recovering full control of the rebels’ last significant urban area would be the most important victory of the war so far for Assad, strengthening his control over Syria’s most populous and strategically important regions.
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.