Fighting despite short truce in Syria's Aleppo

Cheryl Sanders
August 12, 2016

There have been unconfirmed reports among activists and residents of chlorine gas falling on rebel-held east Aleppo since the insurgent offensive.

Heavy fighting took place along Aleppo's southern outskirts of Khan Assel, Khan Toman, Atareb and Sarmada, and there were reports of heavy government and Russian airstrikes on rebel forces defending a supply corridor into the city.

Attacks this week have severely damaged Aleppo's electric and water infrastructure, while the main supply routes to both the eastern and western parts of the city have been cut in recent weeks, making an already severe humanitarian situation much worse.

De Mistura said an attack with chlorine gas in Syria would be "a war crime" but said he could not confirmation that it actually happened.

At least four people died and many suffered breathing difficulties when a gas, believed to be chlorine, was dropped alongside barrel bombs on an Aleppo neighbourhood on Wednesday, a hospital and a civil defence group told Reuters.

But aid agencies say three hours is not enough time to deliver supplies, with the United Nations requiring "a fully-fledged ceasefire or weekly 48-hour humanitarian pauses - as a minimum - to reach millions of people in need".

"The road is so destroyed, it is mined, there are so many dangers, the logistics are so enormous, that we do need time each week, and we need 48 hours", he said. "These attacks are appalling and must cease", the White House said in a statement.

A fierce battle for control of the city has been raging for almost a week, after rebels staged a major assault last week to break a month-long government siege of the rebel-held east, home to almost 300,000 people.

After years of near deadlock in Aleppo, it was the air campaign that began with Russia's intervention last September that finally brought Assad within sight of a major victory.

Western powers say the government has been responsible for chlorine and other chemical attacks, and the government and Russian Federation have accused rebels of using poison gas.

A medic at the hospital said they had received a lot of casualties, who were "all ages" including children and elderly people.

The monitor said another six people were also killed but it had not yet confirmed how many of them were civilians or IS jihadists.

Rebel bombardments of Hamdaniya on Wednesday killed more than a dozen people, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group said.

Rebel forces claim Russian and regime warplanes are still dropping bombs on the east of the city.

Abu George is among thousands who fled areas in southwest Aleppo in recent days, according to the International Committee of the Red Cross.

De Mistura also said that senior military officials from Russian Federation and the United States are still working on restoring an overall ceasefire after five years of civil war that has killed a quarter of a million people and displaced 11 million.

"There were some problems with petrol and fuel, but supplies came in and the petrol stations are open and working", Tony Ishaq, 26, said via internet messenger. Residents in government-held districts say oil and food are now being brought in under cover of night via the same hazardous route near the front line that was previously used by opposition fighters.

O'Brien warned that the humanitarian situation across the country is dire.

Global medical charity Medecins Sans Frontieres, which supports a number of medical facilities in the opposition held sector, said the casualty toll had risen sharply.

Hamza Khatib, the manager of Al Quds hospital in Aleppo, told a Reuters news agency photographer that the hospital had recorded four deaths from gas poisoning and 55 injuries.

There are fears that the entire civilian population has been encircled.

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