Syrian rebels renew attack on Aleppo

Syrian rebels renew their bid to break a government siege of eastern Aleppo, hours before a Russian-declared ceasefire due to begin.

Arutz Sheva Staff ,

Residents walk through rubble in worn-torn Aleppo
Residents walk through rubble in worn-torn Aleppo

Syrian rebels renewed their bid to break a government siege of eastern Aleppo on Thursday, shelling regime-held parts of the city hours before a brief Russian-declared ceasefire was due to begin.

State media said at least 12 people had been killed in rebel rocket and gunfire on regime-controlled neighborhoods, after an assault that began with a double car bomb attack.

Rebels have been battling for nearly a week in a desperate bid to break the three-month siege but have so far been unable to push through government lines in western Aleppo.

The opposition forces on Thursday announced a new phase in their assault on government forces in the city's western outskirts.

"We have started the second phase in our fight to break the siege with heavy artillery fire" on several neighborhoods, rebel fighter Abu Hamza told AFP on the edges of Aleppo.

Thick black smoke billowed out of the Dahiyet al-Assad district, where rebels had lit tires to try to shield themselves from warplanes circling above.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitor said the "most intense fighting" was on the edges of Halab al-Jadida neighborhood.

The clashes on Aleppo's western outskirts could be heard in the city's eastern districts, according to AFP.

No aid has reached eastern Aleppo city's more than 250,000 residents since early July, and there are reports of shortages and price hikes.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon recently warned that food rations are about to end in the war-torn city.

The Observatory said government forces were carrying out air strikes in areas where clashes were underway, but that the rebel-held neighborhoods in the east of the city were largely quiet.

State news agency SANA said rebel fire on Thursday killed at least 12 people and wounded more than 200.

The Observatory put the toll at 15 dead, saying four children were among them, bringing to 69 the total number of civilians killed in rebel fire since Friday, including 23 children.

It also said regime and Russian airstrikes killed 10 civilians, six of whom were children, in a village in Aleppo province.

Aleppo has been divided since mid-2012 between government control in the west and rebels in the east.

A Russian-backed army offensive in September to recapture the whole city killed hundreds of civilians and hit infrastructure including the east's few remaining health facilities.

It provoked international recriminations, particularly against Russia, with the EU accusing it of actions that "may amount to war crimes".

Moscow has rejected the criticism and in late October declared a unilateral three-day ceasefire, during which it urged civilians and rebels to leave east Aleppo.

Moscow said Wednesday it would implement a new, 10-hour "humanitarian pause" for Aleppo on Friday, prompting the UN to warn that "humanitarian operations cannot be contingent on political or military initiatives".

Russia's defense ministry and Syria said the ceasefire would start at 9:00 a.m. Aleppo time (0700 GMT). Previously Russia and Syrian sources had provided different times.

More than 300,000 have been killed in Syria since the conflict began in 2011 with anti-government protests that spiralled into a multi-front war involving regime, rebels, Kurds and jihadists like the Islamic State (ISIS).

AFP contributed to this report.