Bombing campaign targets Syria civil defense centers

Sarah El Deeb
Associated Press

Beirut — Syria’s military threatened a ground offensive in Aleppo and pounded the city’s rebel-held neighborhoods with airstrikes on Friday, killing dozens, demolishing buildings and damaging a main water station in an escalation that could doom faltering attempts to revive a cease-fire.

Rebels vowed to fight to keep President Bashar Assad’s forces out of their districts and shelled government neighborhoods, wounding several people, according to state media.

Diplomatic efforts in New York have failed to salvage a Syria cease-fire that lasted nearly a week, before giving way to what residents and activists say is a new level of violence. The bombing, which began in earnest late Wednesday, has been unprecedented, targeting residential areas, infrastructure and civil defense centers.

Aleppo, Syria’s largest city and one-time commercial center, has been contested since July 2012, but in recent weeks its eastern rebel-held neighborhoods have been under siege by government forces and their allies. During the cease-fire, aid convoys remained stuck on the Turkish border unable to reach rebel-held parts of the city where some 250,000 people live, even though aid delivery was part of the U.S.-Russia truce agreement.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said at least 27 civilians, including three children, were killed in dozens of raids that began overnight. A member of the city’s forensic team, Mohammed Abu Jaafar, said he had documented 54 deaths since late Thursday, including many women and children.

A photograph circulating on social media showed the bodies of a woman and her two children who were killed in one of the airstrikes on Aleppo. The three were shown lying in bed, their bloodied bodies covered in dust and debris as a rescue worker crouched next to them. The woman held a bloodied infant; lying next to her was the body of a young boy, his blue shirt covered in blood.

The Observatory said dozens of people were wounded and an unknown number remained buried under the rubble of buildings destroyed in the airstrikes that began in the early hours Thursday. A young girl was pulled out alive from a collapsed building in the city’s Bab al-Nairab neighborhood early Friday, according to Ibrahim Alhaj, a rescue worker with the Syrian Civil Defense, also known as the White Helmets.

A video posted online by several Syrian social media sites showed the girl’s rescue.