Russia has launched its first attacks on “militant targets” in Syria using warplanes operating from both Russian and Syrian air bases as well as from a Russian aircraft carrier, as air strikes and shelling killed at least 25 people in rebel-held eastern Aleppo on Thursday on the third day of renewed bombing.
There are about 275,000 people trapped by the siege of eastern Aleppo, where civilians are suffering through daily bombing, including by bunker-buster and incendiary weapons, and through starvation, as limited supplies run out and aid convoys are blocked from the city.
On Friday 29 October the rebel forces started a new military operation to break the siege, employing heavy shelling and suicide car bombs, was mainly focused on the city’s western edge by rebels based in the countryside outside Aleppo.
However, the rebels’ attack was repelled in many fronts by Assad regime’s forces and the battles have slowed down after the fourth day, as Assad regime deployed hundreds of fighters to the area and intensified its airstrikes.
Government forces said that they were preparing a major offensive to push opposition fighters out of the besieged eastern half of the city, ans started it again on Tuesday.
Intense air strikes have hit several rebel-held areas in Aleppo for the third day after more than two weeks pf pause, as the previous airstrikes were concentrated on Aleppo’s countryside.
Syrian state television said government jets carried out attacks against what it called “terrorist strongholds” and supply depots in the old city of Aleppo, citing what it described as “special sources”.
Health officials in the opposition-held part of Aleppo said they had recorded 45 deaths and admitted 363 wounded people as a result of air strikes up to and including Wednesday this week.
More than 40 airstrikes and barrel bombs struck rebel-held neighborhoods in the besieged east of the city Thursday, the volunteer group, also known as the White Helmets, said on Twitter. It said many victims remained trapped under the rubble.
“Planes are more than birds, and bombs are more than rain,” one resident said of the Syrian air force’s renewed blitz.
White Helmets member Ismail Abdallah described barrel bombs being dropped from helicopters on besieged neighborhoods regularly.
“The situation is very, very difficult,” he said.
“Our houses are shaking from the pressure. Planes are soaring above us, and the bombardment is around us,” Modar Shekho, a resident of rebel-held eastern Aleppo said.
“It’s all air strikes and parachute bombs. Today, the bombing is violent … There hasn’t been this kind of attack in more than 15 days,” said a resident on Tuesday.
On November 13, Assad regime sent text messages to residents and rebels in eastern Aleppo ordering them to leave the area within 24 hours or they will face the consequences.
“To the armed people in the neighborhoods of east Aleppo, we are giving you 24 hours only to decide if you are leaving. Your leadership abroad is incapable of getting you out. Whoever wants to stay alive must drop his weapons and we will secure his safety. After the 24 hours is up we will implement a strategic attack using highly sophisticated weapons,” the messages read.
“The opposition leadership that stays in hotels and castles enjoying a luxurious life doesn’t care about the poor Syrian citizens in east Aleppo. They are using you for their personal benefit. We are giving you, the sick and the wounded, 24 hours to exit if you want.”
Russia says it is not bombing the city, but it is using an aircraft carrier, missiles fired from another warship, and planes launched from air bases in Russia and Syria to strike targets around the country.
— The White Helmets (@SyriaCivilDef) November 17, 2016
— Ahmad Alkhatib (@AhmadAlkhtiib) November 17, 2016
— Ahmad Alkhatib (@AhmadAlkhtiib) November 17, 2016
Russian bombardment escalates
Russian defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said on Thursday that a frigate had fired cruise missiles, jets from the Admiral Kuznetsov which is Russia’s sole aircraft carrier had been involved in action, and missiles had been loosed from a mobile land-based missile system inside Syria.
“For the first time in our naval history, the aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsov started taking part in combat,” Shoigu said. “Today from this carrier, our Sukhoi-33 began their operations.”
Russia launched its latest operations to put more pressure on the rebel forces, force them to surrender and deal one last blow to them.
Cruise missiles fired from Russian Tu-95MS planes struck “Islamic State and Nusra Front” targets in a three-pronged approach, according to the Russian defense ministry said on Thursday.
Apart from the attacks by the strategic Tu-95MS and planes from the Admiral Kuznetsov, warplanes from Hmeimim air base in Syria also took part in the operations, the ministry said.
The cruise missiles were launched from the Mediterranean Sea zone, while some planes were deployed from an airbase in Russia, covering more 11,000 km (6,800 miles) and refueling twice in the air, the ministry added.
However, opposition sources on the ground said that the victims of the Russian operations are only the anarmed civilians
Activists on Tuesday said that Phosphorus bombs were used also in attacking al-waer besieged area in Homs city. Images and videos published online showed large fires and burnt bodies.
The arrival of a Russian aircraft carrier, the Admiral Kuznetsov, into the Mediterranean and its heading to the Syrian coast suggested Moscow may intend to escalate its operations and deal one last blow to the rebels.
The Russian Northern fleet battle group, consisting of Admiral Kuznetsov, the Pyotr Velikiy battle cruiser, two large anti-submarine ships Severomorsk and Vice-Admiral Kulakov as well as support vessels, arrived in the Mediterranean in early November.
Earlier this week, Russian Defense Ministry said that the planes and vessels from the battle group are ready to attack the rebels’ targets on the outskirts of Syria’s Aleppo, help in retrieving it from their hands and preventing more rebels to advance to the city.