Medical clinic again hit in Aleppo, Syria's civilians bear the brunt

A series of airstrikes targeted clinics and markets in opposition-held areas in Aleppo on Friday, ending a brief lull in violence in the embattled northern Syrian city and sparking fears of more intense conflict.

The strikes hit two clinics, a vegetable market and a mosque in Aleppo, killing at least three people, activists and medics said. The attacks come less than 48 hours after a major hospital was destroyed by airstrikes, provoking global outrage.

More than 200 people have been killed this week in Aleppo city alone, activists say. The city is divided between government and rebel-held areas.

"Twenty air raids have occurred," Abdel-Rahman, a member of the non-governmental group the White Helmets, an emergency response team operating in rebel-held districts, told dpa.

Emile Hokayem, a Middle East analyst with the Institute for Security Studies, accused President Bashar al-Assad's forces of intentionally targeting civilians.

"Assad's indiscriminate tactical targeting is strategic in nature: it depopulates and debilitates, breaks morale and communities," Hokayem said on his Twitter feed.

"If doctors are killed there is no one to care for the patients who are sick and injured. Killing a doctor is the equivalent of killing more civilians," said Matthieu Amiraux, a spokesman for Doctors Without Border (MSF), which supported the destroyed hospital.

MSF stopped giving out the map coordinates of their clinics and hospitals after a series of raids hit their buildings earlier this year, before the US and Russian-brokered ceasefire went into effect in late February.

"What we see is that more and more civilian infrastructure and civilian services, like schools, hospitals and markets are being hit by bombings. Maybe this is a strategy," he said. Most of rebel-held Aleppo's medics have been killed or fled.

The latest strikes by Syrian government aircraft targeted the rebel-held neighbourhoods of al-Marja, al-Sukari and Bustan al-Qasr, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported.

The attack put the clinic in the district of al-Marja out of commission, the Britain-based watchdog said.

Activist Mahmoud al-Shami, who is based in Aleppo, said the struck mosque was located in al-Sukari, the district where the hospital was bombarded late Wednesday, leaving at least 30 people dead.

All mosques inside the rebel-held areas in Aleppo cancelled the congregational noon prayers Friday, according to activists, as residents feared attacks would hit areas where civilians gathered.

Violence has simmered in Aleppo in the past seven days, killing a total of 202 civilians, according to the Observatory.

The fatalities included 131 people killed in airstrikes and shelling on rebel-held areas in Aleppo, said the Observatory that relies on a network of activists inside Syria.

At least 71 were killed in retaliatory rebel attacks on regime-held areas in Aleppo city during the same period.

The surge in violence in Aleppo and elsewhere in Syria undermined the ceasefire, which UN officials say is the best hope to reduce violence in the country, now in its fifth year of civil war.

The truce excluded the Islamic State extremist militia and al-Qaeda-linked al-Nusra Front.

Russia and the United States have agreed to a full ceasefire - primarily affecting the provinces of Aleppo, Latakia and Damascus - for April 30, Russian state news agency TASS reported Friday, citing an undisclosed source,

The Syrian army announced, via the state run SANA news agency, a cessation of hostilities in Damascus for 24 hours and the northern Latakia countryside for 72 hours, starting at 1 am (2200 GMT on Friday). There was no mention of Aleppo.

Recent government military advances, backed by Russian airstrikes and allied militias, have put the rebel-held east at risk of siege.

An estimated 250,000 people remain in the city, which has seen dramatic increases in the level of bombardments, fighting and fatalities in recent weeks, according to MSF.

Elsewhere in the northern province of Aleppo, calm reportedly returned to areas near the Turkish border that were rocked Thursday by clashes between US-backed Syrian fighters and Islamist insurgents.

"Those militants will think now twice before they launch attacks on SDF areas," said Talal Selo, a spokesman for the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), which includes the Kurdish militia People's Protection Units (YPG).

The YPG confirmed the death of 11 members in the fighting near Afrin, an area the Kurds see as an autonomous canton. The Observatory said 53 fighters from Islamist rebel groups were killed, though the toll may be higher.

Last update: Fri, 29/04/2016 - 14:05

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