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Syria conflict: New air strikes on Aleppo as offensive launched


Agency:
Warplanes have carried out fresh air strikes on Aleppo, hours after Syria's government announced an offensive to retake rebel-held areas of the city.

Syrian and Russian planes were pounding eastern Aleppo, according to activists. A rescue worker described what was happening as "annihilation".

The government has urged people to avoid positions held by rebels. Russia has not confirmed its involvement.

US-Russian talks to revive a collapsed truce have broken up without progress.

Russia supports the Syrian government, while the US backs the opposition. The two powers accuse each other of failing to rein in their respective allies on the ground.

The White Helmets, a Syrian volunteer rescue group, says dozens of air strikes were carried out in Aleppo on Friday morning.

The group says the centres set up to help victims of bombardments were being targeted, and three out of four had been put out of action.

The Al Jazeera news agency tweeted that its bureau in the city had been partly destroyed.

Announcing the new offensive on state television late on Thursday, the Syrian government warned Aleppo residents to "stay away" from "terrorist positions".

Syrian military sources said a ground offensive would follow.

One told the Agence France-Presse news agency that the bombardment "could go on for hours or days before the ground operation starts. The timing of the ground operation will depend on the results of the strikes".

Army officials said there would be exit points for anyone, including rebels, who wanted to flee.


Russian and Syrian commanders - always sceptical about the merits of the ceasefire - now appear to have been given a green light to sort out the Aleppo problem once and for all.

Imagery of the shattered city presents a gaunt vista in which thousands of innocent people remain trapped on both sides. Targeted attacks by government forces against medical and civil defence facilities add another element of horror to the situation.

The fact that this new onslaught is taking place against a backdrop of the total failure in the US and Russian brokered efforts to implement a ceasefire in Syria is also significant. In the wake of this failure there is a good degree of bitterness on all sides.

This provides space for the stepping up of military action on the ground. Indeed the pause may well have enabled government forces to reposition in key areas and to improve intelligence gathering.


The government's warning came after days of air strikes on Aleppo. Syria declared the week-long ceasefire over on Monday.

Residents told the BBC earlier this week that barrel bombs had struck rebel-held districts, causing many fires. Dozens of civilians were reported to have been killed.




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