aleppo airstrike, syria.jpg
Photograph: EPA/ZOUHIR AL SHIMALE

At least 30 civilians were killed in shellfire by Syrian rebel groups advancing in the south-western districts of Aleppo over the last 24 hours, a monitoring group said Tuesday.

Rami Abdel Rahman, head of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said those killed included 11 children and seven women in the Hamdaniyeh and Ramousseh neighbourhoods.

The two areas are the main target of a rebel offensive aimed at breaking through into opposition-held eastern Aleppo from the south-west after regime forces captured its last remaining supply route last month, placing it under siege.

The heavy shelling, which continued until morning, came as regime forces overnight counter-attacked and won back some positions, the Britain-based Observatory said.

State media said the Syrian air force carried out several strikes on areas controlled by "terrorists", a term used by the regime to describe rebels.

But opposition figures remained upbeat, with Brita Hagi Hassan, the head of the opposition city council, telling dpa via a Facebook message: "If the rebels continue their push into regime areas in south-western Aleppo..., all of Aleppo will be liberated in one week."

Rebels led by the Fatah al-Sham Front, previously known as the al-Nusra Front until it changed its name and ended its formal affiliation with al-Qaeda terrorist organization last week, launched a major offensive on Aleppo's south-western outskirts Sunday evening.

The rebel forces in the area are separated by only a few kilometres of regime territory from besieged eastern Aleppo.

The Observatory said that planes raided by noon several areas in the Sheikh Saeed and al-Sukari districts, killing at least two and wounding several others.

It added that warplanes also struck Atarib in western Aleppo, killing six people and wounding at least 15 others.

The Observatory said that the second stage of the offensive has been dubbed by rebels "Aleppo's anger."

Riad Kahwaji, Founder and Chief Executive Officer of the Institute for Near East and Gulf Military Analysis, told dpa that the opposition forces have surprised their opponents with the level of resilience they have.

"Despite the fierce offensive by the regime forces supported by Russian air cover and the Iranian-supplied Shiite militias, opposition forces managed to regain the momentum through a surprise counter-offensive from the west and south of Aleppo," Kahwaji said.

He added that the rebels seem to be on the verge of encircling regime forces in some pockets in and around the city.

"Air power can do so little in urban fighting especially if the other side [Russia and the Syrian regime] lacks smart weapons and the Russian airpower is clearly short on effective precision weapons," Kahwaji said.

"I believe the battle of Aleppo is proving way much more difficult than the Iranian-Russian axis had expected; and it will be more costly to them if they keep trying to capture the city," Kahwaji warned.

Both Russia and Iran support Syria's armed forces.

Latest news

New Romanian justice minister named after anti-corruption protests

Romanian Prime Minister Sorin Grindeanu has named a former judge to be the country's next justice minister, after the previous office holder resigned under pressure from mass anti-corruption protests.

Le Pen's chief of staff indicted in European Parliament jobs probe

The chief of staff of Marine Le Pen, the far-right candidate for president in upcoming French elections, was indicted Wednesday over allegations of irregular reimbursements from the European Parliament, a judicial source told dpa.

Montenegrin police extradites Miodrag Jovic to Croatia

Montenegrin police reported on Wednesday that they extradited to Croatia Miodrag Jovic (48) from Glina, after whom Interpol Zagreb issued an arrest warrant.

Croatian minister attends CoMoCoSEE conference in Albania

Culture Minister Nina Obuljen Korzinek participated in a third conference of the Council of Ministers of Culture of South-Eastern Europe (CoMoCoSEE) that took place in Tirana on February 21-22.

New Somali president asks al-Shabaab to surrender to 'help' country

Somalia's newly elected President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo asked Islamist terrorist group al-Shabaab to surrender in order "to help rebuild" the conflict-ridden East African nation.

Serbia's EU negotiator says minority rights neglected

The head of the Serbia's European Union accession negotiation team, Tanja Miscevic, said in Novi Sad on Wednesday that minority rights had been neglected for many years and added that positive results in that regard cannot be achieved over night, the Beta news agency has reported. 

Scientists: Nearby star's 7 rocky planets are "best bet" for life

New analysis of telescope data shows a dwarf star just 40 light years from Earth has at least seven apparently rocky planets with potential to harbour water, an international team of scientists announced Wednesday.

Croatian PM receives EIB Vice-President

Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic met on Wednesday with European Investment Bank (EIB) Vice-President Dario Scannapieco for talks on the bank's contribution to a new investment cycle in Croatia and its support to the Croatian government to implement key projects, a press release from the government's office said.

Bomb explodes outside police officer's home in Northern Ireland

A bomb exploded outside a police officer's home in Northern Ireland on Wednesday but there were no immediate reports of casualties.

Denmark to charge man with blasphemy over burning Koran

Danish prosecutors said Wednesday they have opened a rare blasphemy case against a man who videotaped himself burning a copy of the Koran.

South Africa to raise taxes for the wealthiest

South Africa will raise the income tax rate for the country's wealthiest to 45 per cent from 41 per cent, Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan announced Wednesday.

Reformist Macron wins support of key centrist leader for French vote

France's reformist presidential hopeful, Emmanuel Macron, got a boost on Wednesday when he picked up the support of a party leader whose centrist constituency played a pivotal role in the last two presidential elections.