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

A series of lethal airstrikes targeted clinics and markets in opposition-held areas of 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 nine people, activists and medics said. The attacks come less than 48 hours after a major children's hospital was destroyed by airstrikes, provoking global outrage.

More than 200 people, according to activists and state media, have been killed this week in Aleppo city which is divided between government controlled parts in the west and rebel-held areas in the east.

There were more than 20 reported airstrikes and raids on rebel-held districts while the government reported regular bouts of shelling hitting the east.

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, 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 attack put the clinic in the district of al-Marja out of commission, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported.

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.

Violence has simmered in Aleppo in the past seven days, killing more than 2,010 civilians, according to the Observatory.

The fatalities included about 140 people killed in airstrikes and shelling on rebel-held areas in Aleppo, said the Observatory that relies on a network of activists inside Syria.

About 80 people were killed in retaliatory rebel attacks on government-held areas in Aleppo city during the same period.

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

A Russian military official confirmed the ceasefire in Latakia, Moscow's state run TASS news agency said.

The United States has urged Russia, a staunch backer of al-Assad, to rein in the Syrian government, as fears grow that the national ceasefire could collapse.

UN officials say the February deal remains the best hope to reduce violence in the country, now in its fifth year of civil war.

Efforts to bring the warring parties to the table in Geneva and negotiate a solution have stalled, after the opposition walked out, citing a lack of progress on humanitarian issues and government attacks.

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

An estimated 250,000 people remain in Aleppo, according to MSF. Advances by the government have put the rebel-held east at risk of siege.

Civilians say fleeing is almost impossible due to the violence. Moreover, the border with Turkey remains shut.

Calm has returned to northern Aleppo province, after armed opposition groups, including Islamist factions reportedly backed by Turkey, attacked Kurdish forces, leaving nearly 70 people dead, mostly on the rebel side.

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