Syrian and Russian warplanes have launched a wave of air strikes in northern Syria, killing scores of civilians in areas held by a rebel alliance battling to take control of second city Aleppo.
The strikes, which began on Saturday and were continuing yesterday, killed at least 45 civilians in Aleppo and west of the city, and 22 more in neighbouring Idlib province, a monitoring group said.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the strikes were targeting areas held by the Army of Conquest, an alliance of rebel, Islamist and jihadist forces that has mounted a major offensive to seize Aleppo.
“The intensification of the strikes in Idlib is due to the fact that this province is the main source of fighters for the Army of Conquest,” the head of the Britain- based Observatory, Rami Abdel Rahman, said.
The strikes were especially intense around the southern district of Ramussa, seized by rebel fighters earlier this month in a major setback for forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad.
Nine other civilians were killed in rebel shelling of the regime-held western Aleppo on Saturday, the Observatory said.
Aleppo, Syria’s former economic hub and a focal point of the country’s five- year civil war, has been divided between a rebel-held east and regime-controlled west since mid-2012.
Fighting for the city has intensified since regime troops seized control of the last supply route into rebel-held areas in the middle of last month.
After a nearly three-week siege, rebel forces took Ramussa on August 6, linking up with opposition-held neighbourhoods.
Emboldened by the win, the Army of Conquest announced an ambitious bid to capture all of Aleppo, which, if successful, would be the biggest opposition victory yet in Syria’s conflict.
The increased fighting has raised deep concerns for the estimated 1.5 million civilians still in Aleppo.