Unrelenting airstrikes on a besieged rebel section of Syria's northern city of Aleppo have turned it into a "kill box" for children, the medical charity Doctors Without Borders (MSF) warned on Friday.
"All sorts of civilian spaces are being hit; schools are being damaged. The reality is that children die every day in what appears to be a ‘kill box’,” Carlos Francisco, the head of MSF mission for Syria, said.
At least 114 children have been killed and 321 injured in attacks on opposition-controlled eastern Aleppo in the past three weeks, MSF reported.
Medical authorities inside eastern Aleppo also worry about the rise in the number of children suffering from waterborne diseases, as well as the lack of essential vaccinations, added the group, which supports eight hospitals in the city's opposition area.
"The targeting of [the] water pump station by the strikes and shelling has made the clean water scarce and hospitals inside eastern Aleppo have reported children suffering from diarrhoea, dehydration and hepatitis A."
Eastern Aleppo has been subjected to heavy airstrikes by the Syrian regime and its Russian allies since September 19, when a US-Russian-brokered ceasefire in Syria fell apart.
The area was on Friday the target of intense air bombardment by unidentified jets, leaving unspecified casualties, a monitoring group reported.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights added that forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad advanced against rebels in the northern part of eastern Aleppo, tightening the siege on the area.
Al-Assad said in an interview published in Russia on Friday that the battle for Aleppo is a decisive point in the country's civil war.
A Syrian military conquest of Aleppo would provide the momentum to either further eradicate terrorist groups in the country or force them back to Turkey "from where they came," al-Assad told the Russian newspaper Komsomolskaya Pravda.
He suggested that, after the conquest, his military would proceed to "cleanse" the city of Idlib, near the Turkish border.
The bloody conflict, which has lasted more than five years, has developed into a sort of proxy war between Russia and the United States, according to al-Assad.
"The West, especially the US, did not stop the Cold War even after the collapse of the Soviet Union." He said there was a sense of a third world war hanging in the air in Syria.
Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday signed an agreement with al-Assad's government to allow permanent deployment of Russian military forces in Syria.
The deal stipulates immunity for Russian soldiers and the ability to freely transport weaponry and munitions in the Middle Eastern country.
As one of the Syrian government's main allies, Russia has been waging a bombing campaign against militant groups in the country for more than a year.
US Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov are to meet on Saturday in Switzerland to discuss the conflict.