The besieged parts of Aleppo is being pounded by the heaviest bombardment in years for the 8th days of a new military operation killing over a hundred civilians and destroying everything, as Assad regime forces continued its pressure on the ground.
Around 275,000 people trapped by the siege of eastern Aleppo have been suffering from intense air strikes that battered the eastern part of the city since Tuesday, when Assad regime and its allies resumed operations after a pause lasting weeks. They launched ground attacks against insurgent positions on Friday.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said on Tuesday that 141 civilians, including 18 children, had been killed in the last week of violence while hundreds of others were injured.
Observatory said there were another 87 deaths of rebel fighters and people of unknown identity in the eastern sector.
More than 950 civilians have been killed and more than 2000 injured in rebel-held areas of Aleppo province since 19 September when Assad regime completed insulating Aleppo city.
Helicopters continue extensively dropping barrel bombs in conjunction with airstrikes by warplanes on areas in the eastern neighborhoods of city, accompanied by artillery shelling by the regime forces on the same places and more than 27 civilians in Tuesday.
The relentless aerial bombardment that has reduced to rubble civilian homes and left the rebel-held east without any functioning hospitals for a quarter of a million people, including almost 100,000 children, according to Aleppo health directorate and the World Health Organization (WHO).
An official with a rebel group based in east Aleppo said there were still no working hospitals there on Sunday.
Dr Ahmed Mbayed, of the Canadian Medical Relief Organization, confirmed that all medical facilities in besieged Aleppo “are totally out of service”.
Assad regime was also accused of using chemical weapons against civilians again.
The observatory said that residents of eastern districts had suffered from “suffocation” after four barrel bomb attacks and that medical officials suspected a chlorine gas attack.
The Organisation for the Prohibition for Chemical Weapons (OPCW) said that the regime’s key backer Russia had offered it “samples” relating to an alleged chemical attack in Aleppo.
A barrel bomb loaded with chlorine killed a family of six in rebel-held eastern Aleppo early on Sunday.
Two medics said the al-Baytounji family suffocated to death because the barrel bomb, which fell in the Sakhour district at about midnight, had been laced with chlorine gas.
“This ferocious campaign is a war of extermination,” said a doctor in eastern Aleppo, who was wounded earlier this month in an airstrike. “Everything is a target, whether human or tree or rock. Everything is being exterminated with the collusion of the United Nations. They all see and hear, but they will not answer, and they cannot stop this war machine.”
He added: “We have nobody but God.”
— Ahmad Alkhatib (@AhmadAlkhtiib) November 22, 2016
— Zouhir_AlShimale (@ZouhirAlShimale) November 22, 2016
— Kenan Rahmani كنان (@KenanRahmani) November 22, 2016
Rebels lose key region to Assad regime
Eastern Aleppo suffered not only air attack, but also strong ground attacks aiming at breaking the rebels’ resistance.
The regime’s forces’ persistent and the intensive airstrikes forced the rebels to leave the areas they took during their last offensive.
The army and its allies began some ground attacks on Friday. The Observatory reported intense clashes in Sheikh Saeed, in southeast Aleppo and in Baeedain and Bustan al-Basha, in northeast Aleppo.
Assad regime forces retook almost a third of the Masaken Hanano district, which has been held by the rebels for the past 4 years, on Tuesday according to the observatory.
Masaken Hanano was the first Aleppo district to fall to rebels in 2012, and it is strategically vital.
Observatory head Rami Abdel Rahman said that if regime forces manage to take the district they will be able to “cut off the northern parts of rebel-held Aleppo from the rest of the opposition-held districts”.
“This is a key and important advance for the Syrian army since the assault on eastern Aleppo started,” the observatory said.
Activists inside Aleppo told Agence France-Presse that the last few residents of Masaken Hanano – which has been targeted regularly by air strikes – were fleeing to other areas inside eastern Aleppo.
Who is trapping the civilians?
Assad regime urged rebels to pull out of east Aleppo and allow civilians to also leave, as it pressed an offensive to recapture the city’s opposition-held sector.
The Assad regime’s forces, which has besieged the east for months, also demanded that rebels distribute food to civilians, while calling on residents to cooperate with its advancing troops.
The military air-dropped leaflets with a picture of a green bus like those used in the past to transport civilians and rebels from areas retaken by the government.
“To those involved in carrying weapons, we stretch out our hand to you. Reserve your place before it is too late,” the leaflets read.
The picture showed the bus on a road marked “the path of salvation”.
Assad regime rejected the proposal made by Turkey and the United Nations to allow the city to manage itself.
the regime’s Foreign Minister Walid Al-Moallem said “We will not accept the solution that involves the self-government of the city, we will not allow the delivery of aid to the city and we will not leave eastern Aleppo, with its 275,000 residents, to be the hostage of 6,000 terrorists.”
The truth is the opposite of that. Assad’s forces and its allies Iran and Russia are the ones who have taken the population as hostages. They are besieging and attacking the city, destroying houses and targeting hospitals as part of a plan to make Aleppo uninhabitable in addition to eliminating 6,000 Free Syrian Army (FSA) fighters.
— Ghobad_Khedri (@Ghobad_Khedri) November 21, 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.