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Scores of Civilians Killed In Aleppo as Syria Violence Intensifies

Government airstrikes and shelling by armed groups have left dozens dead in the war-ravaged city over the past few days, rescue workers and monitoring groups say.

by VICE News
Apr 27 2016, 11:43am

Des gens inspectent un immeuble détruit par les frappes aériennes à Damas, le 4 avril 2016. Photo de Mohammed Badra/EPA

Syrian government airstrikes and shelling by armed groups have killed dozens of civilians in Aleppo over the past few days, rescue workers and monitoring groups say, as the city suffers a marked escalation in violence.

The increase in fighting has left a cessation of hostilities agreement in tatters and comes after the virtual collapse of United Nations-brokered peace talks in Geneva last week.

Aleppo's branch of the Syrian Civil Defense, a volunteer search and rescue group known as the White Helmets, said bombings had left at least 89 civilians dead and injured another 135 in the city since April 22, Human Rights Watch reported on Wednesday.

In one incident aircraft bombed a market in the the northeastern neighborhood of Sakhour, killing 17 civilians. The UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR), which gathers information from a network of local activists, put the death toll at 60 between April 22 and 24 alone.

It is unclear whether the strikes are being carried out by government forces or allied Russian aircraft, which began an extensive bombing campaign on rebel-held areas in September. Rebel groups and Islamic factions are also shelling regime-held neighborhoods.

Related: Syrian Fighters Say the Ceasefire Is Getting Shakier and Shakier

On April 25, five Civil Defense members in the town of Arareb west of Aleppo were killed by air strikes and a rocket attack on their local headquarters, the group said. It subsequently posted pictures of the badly-damaged building and rescue vehicles.

A surgeon working in Aleppo treating victims of the strikes told VICE News there had been heavy bombings in a number of areas of the city this week, with most taking place in late morning, and that he and his team had been treating victims for hours afterwards each day.

HRW said the strikes appeared not to have targeted military objectives, which could make them war crimes. It urged the international community to move to protect Syria's civilians.

"With the civilian death toll rising and hundreds of thousands of people fleeing the country, key powers need to be focused on protecting civilians in all parts of Syria," said Nadim Houry, HRW's deputy Middle East director. "There are decisive measures that key powers, particularly those on the [United Nations] Security Council, can take to deter abusive parties and improve protection for civilians."

Armed opposition groups have killed at least 20 civilians since April 22, according to the government run SANA news agency, with 16 dead on Monday alone. Rebels have also bombarded Aleppo's Kurdish-controlled neighborhood of Sheikh Maqsoud, according to local activists and Kurdish forces.

On April 25 the SOHR reported the deaths of at least 19 people, including three children, and at least 120 wounded following rebel shelling on parts of Aleppo.

Air strikes have also been reported this week in other rebel-held parts of the country. The Syrian Network for Human Rights, another monitoring group, said it had documented the killing of 28 civilians by government and pro-government forces on Tuesday alone.

Peace talks brought about a major, but not complete halt in violence after a cessation of hostilities was announced February 26. Violence has since escalated and the opposition High Negotiations Committee withdrew from talks last week.

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Related: Syrian Ceasefire Sees Popular Backlash Against Al-Qaeda

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