Warplanes launched some of the heaviest airstrikes yet on rebel-held areas of Aleppo yesterday after the Russian-backed Syrian army declared an offensive to fully capture Syria’s biggest city, killing off any hope of reviving a ceasefire.
The offensive against rebel-held parts of the city is “a comprehensive one,” including a ground attack and preparatory air and artillery attacks could go on “for some time,” a Syrian military source said.
“With respect to the air or artillery strikes, they may continue for some time depending on the field situation and the terrorists’ losses,” the source said.
“Like any military operation, it starts with preparatory airstrikes and artillery, and then the ground forces work according to the results of the strikes and their impact,” the source said.
Residents said the streets were deserted as the 250,000 people still trapped in the besieged opposition-held sector of Aleppo sought shelter.
The rebels and the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring body described raids by sophisticated jets that they said must belong to Russia.
Residents also spoke of attacks by helicopters using bombs made from oil drums, a tactic usually attributed to the Syrian army.
“Can you hear it? The neighborhood is getting hit right now by missiles. We can hear the planes right now,” Mohammad Abu Rajab, a radiologist, told reporters. “The planes are not leaving the sky, helicopters, barrel bombs, warplanes.”
The bombardment left no doubt that the Syrian government and its Russian allies had spurned a plea from US Secretary of State John Kerry to halt flights to resurrect the ceasefire, which lasted a week before collapsing on Monday.
A rebel commander said the blasts were the fiercest the city had faced.
“I woke up to a powerful earthquake, though I was in a place far away from where the missile landed,” he said in a voice recording sent to reporters.
In a late-night announcement on Thursday, the Syrian military announced “the start of its operations in the eastern districts of Aleppo,” and warned people to stay away from “the headquarters and positions of the armed terrorist gangs.”
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