80 killed in Aleppo as regime steps up assault

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Air raids and ferocious artillery fire pounded rebel-held east Aleppo on Friday as an escalating military offensive underscored the Syrian regime’s determination to take full control of the divided city.

Streets were deserted and residents took refuge indoors on the fourth straight day of government bombardment of rebel-controlled parts of Syria’s second city.

“The victims of the massacres have included women, children and an entire family. Around 90 Russian air raids targeted the east of the city and the surrounding countryside on Friday alone, killing at least 80 people,” White Helmets’ spokesman Ibrahim Abu al-Laith told The New Arab.

“More than 750 regime shells and rockets have hit the many districts in the east of the city. Since Tuesday 228 people have been killed and hundreds injured.”

The artillery fire was the most intense in east Aleppo in around two years and rescue workers said it was too dangerous to move around bomb-scarred neighbourhoods.

“I have never heard such intense artillery bombardments,” said Najib Fakhoury, head of the White Helmets in the rebel-held Ansari district.

“Earlier, we received a call for help to extinguish a fire,” he said. “But we cannot go because the shells are falling on the streets.”

Aleppo has been ravaged by some of the worst violence of the five-year war, which has displaced more than half the county’s population and killed more than 300,000 people.

President Bashar al-Assad’s Russian-backed government has carried out several bombing campaigns this year but has failed to dislodge the rebels from east Aleppo, where more than 250,000 residents are under army siege.

Regime helicopters dropped barrel bombs – crude unguided explosive devices whose use has been denounced by international rights groups because they kill indiscriminately.

UN humanitarian adviser Jan Egeland said on Friday that residents of eastern Aleppo face a “very bleak moment” as aid convoys with food and medical supplies remain blocked from reaching the besieged city.

As winter approaches, civilians stranded under heavy bombardment and, despite optimism from both Russia and rebel groups over a UN humanitarian plan to allow supplies to reach the sick and wounded, neither sides have yet consented.