Heavy bombardment on the Syrian city of Aleppo has led to the deaths of 338 people, including over 100 children, reports the World Health Organization. The strikes were a joint effort between Syrian government forces and Russia. Aleppo, which is held by rebels, was also attacked by a wide variety of groups allied with the Syrian government.
Many of Aleppo’s much needed hospitals, including its two largest, have been destroyed as a result of the latest attacks. Dr. Richard Brenner, the World Health Organization’s Director of Emergency Response said up to 846 wounded people, including 261 children, are expected to die due to lack of treatment.
Reports about the extent of the attack’s success were conflicted. Government forces reported they had captured the northern part of the city, and were now fighting the rebels in the city’s centre. Rebel commanders denied these reports, saying the government had only succeeded in capturing a camp outside the city.
International groups monitoring the worsening situation in Syria have accused Russia and the Syrian government of deliberately bombing non-military targets, such as hospitals and schools. The over 250,000 people in eastern Aleppo live in a constant state of terror, as the entire city itself becomes a target. Rebel forces say a government strike hit the main water plant that supplies clean drinking water to a region of the city.
Five years of civil war has taken a serious toll on the Syrian Army. It is no longer a large force and is instead composed of just a few effective and experienced units who are insufficient in performing a large offensive.
The government has looked outside of the country for support, including Shiite militias and mercenaries from Iraq and Afghanistan, fighters from the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah and soldiers from Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.
These militias, alongside a Russian air campaign, have, “hit civilian areas and increasingly used indiscriminate weapons, including cluster and incendiary munitions,” said Britain’s special representative to Syria, Gareth Bayley.
Russia has also been accused of using ‘bunker buster bombs’, which are meant for military targets, on civilian centres. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov continues to defend Russia’s actions as necessary to defeat terrorists. The minister told the BBC that Russian forces were not using, “any munition which is prohibited by the United Nations.”
He continued to say Russia was taking “all necessary precautions not to hit civilians,” and that, “if this happens, then we are very sorry.”
Russia has also accused the United States of backing terrorist groups like the al-Nusra Front, an Al Qaeda affiliate, and the Islamic State, via their support of Syrian rebels.
US secretary of state John Kerry has grown increasingly impatient with Russia’s actions, threatening to end all talks on Syria unless the bombings stopped.
Peace talks including a ceasefire were scheduled last month between government and opposition forces, but broke down after Russian forces supposedly attacked a humanitarian aid convoy heading for the besieged city of Aleppo. Ban Ki-moon, Secretary General of the United Nations, said he will be forming a board of inquiry to investigate the attack, which may have constituted a war crime.
Abu Anas, an opposition fighter who joined the al-Nusra Front, which now calls itself the Levant Conquest Front, said the terrible attacks were actually to their advantage, as the population of Syria is becoming increasingly radicalized.
The United Nations has aid ready for the citizens of Aleppo, but it just cannot get the aid into the city.
“We are asking for four things: stop the killing, stop attacks on health care, let the sick and wounded out, and let the aid in,” said Brennan.
“The message is simple,” he continued. “We hope this time it doesn’t fall on deaf ears.”