Air strikes pound Syrian city of Aleppo, death toll climbs – Reuters

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BEIRUT Nearly 30 air strikes hit rebel-held areas of Syria’s northern city of Aleppo on Saturday and the total number of people killed by the warring sides after nine straight days of bombardment reached nearly 250, a monitoring group said.

However, a temporary “regime of calm” announced by the Syrian army late on Friday appeared to have taken hold in two other areas blighted by recent fighting, in the northwest coastal province Latakia and outskirts of the capital Damascus.

The Syrian government said the “regime of calm” – from which a military source said Aleppo had been exempted – was an attempt to salvage a wider ceasefire deal reached in February.

The February truce, brokered by Washington and Moscow, has all but collapsed in fighting that has intensified, particularly in and around Aleppo as peace talks in Geneva have crumbled.

At least five people were killed in Aleppo early on Saturday in the latest round of air strikes, which were believed to have been carried out by Syrian government warplanes, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

The British-based monitoring group put the civilian death toll in government and rebel bombardments of neighborhoods in Aleppo since April 22 at nearly 250.

This figure included around 140 people killed by government-aligned forces in air strikes and shellings of rebel-held areas, including 19 children, it said. Insurgent shelling of government-held areas killed 96 people, including 21 children.

Aleppo, Syria’s largest city before the war, has been divided for years between rebel and government zones. Full control would be the most important prize for President Bashar al-Assad, who has been fighting to keep hold of his country throughout a five-year civil war.


Observatory director Rami Abdulrahman said government-held areas of Aleppo were “a bit quieter today”, but that shells fired by rebels were still intermittently hitting.

“There aren’t clashes in Latakia, there aren’t clashes in Ghouta (Damascus suburbs),” only some lower-level violence between rival rebel groups outside Damascus, Abdulrahman said.

A resident of Western Ghouta, which is under government siege, said shellings appeared to have ceased around the capital in the hours after the start of the “regime of calm” at 1 a.m. (2200 GMT on Friday).

“Until now there has been no military activity and no sound of bombardments in nearby areas, no sound of shelling or of warplanes,” the resident, Maher Abu Jaafar, told Reuters via internet messenger.

“It’s the opposite of last night, when there was a lot of bombing and the sounds of rockets and shells.”

A Friday statement from the Syrian army did not explain what military or non-military action a “regime of calm” would entail.

It said it would last for 24 hours in Eastern Ghouta and Damascus and for 72 hours in areas of the northern Latakia countryside.

The United Nations has called on Moscow and Washington to help restore the ceasefire to prevent the complete collapse of talks aimed at ending a conflict in which more than 250,000 people have been killed and millions displaced.

(Editing by Gareth Jones)

Air strikes pound Syrian city of Aleppo, death toll climbs – Reuters