Militants shell Aleppo, killing 16, injuring dozens amid fragile Syria ceasefire
Al-Qaeda-linked militants have shelled the Syrian city of Aleppo, killing 16 people and injuring 86, state news agency SANA reports, as the fragile ceasefire is being threatened by resurging violence.
A source at Aleppo police command told SANA on Monday that shells fired by al-Nusra fighters landed in Aleppo’s al-Sulaimaniyeh neighborhood, claiming lives of four, three of them children, and injuring 19 others, many in critical conditions.
Five other civilians have been killed and around 41 injured by a number of shells that hit al-Izaa neighborhood, the source added. Two other shells hit Bab al-Faraj neighborhood and Qurtuba roundabout in al-Zahraa neighborhood, killing two civilians and injuring one, SANA reported.
Earlier, the source told SANA that three rocket shells fired by militants from Bani Zaid neighborhood landed in the neighborhoods of al-Jamiliyeh, Mogambo and al-Ashrafiyeh, leaving three people dead, among them a woman, and injuring five others.
There has been systematic shelling of Aleppo in the past three days with the help of artillery, mortar and other kinds of shells, a local journalist Yosef al Ebrahim told RT. Although the firing is carried out from the same positions it is not clear which group is conducting it, he said.
“It is very difficult to determine from which areas the shelling is carried out since very large neighborhoods are under control of armed groups, such as Jaish al-Fatah, Jabhat al-Nusra and others, that have formed an alliance after the truce has been announced in Syria.”
One thing that seems rather transparent is that militants are specifically targeting civilian areas, the journalist said.
“In reality, militants are shelling civilian neighborhoods. It is pretty clear. All targets which have been subject to shelling are civilian neighborhoods. There are no military facilities in Aleppo. This could be seen on footage showing injured children and adults.”
Yosef al Ebrahim noted that the shelling of Aleppo and its neighborhoods has intensified at the same time when the Riyadh delegation of the Syrian opposition dropped out of Geneva negotiations.
“What draws one’s attention is that the increase in hostilities from armed groups coincides with the withdrawal of Riyadh delegation of the Syrian opposition from Geneva negotiations.”
He said that the current fighting has resulted in the “biggest scale of destruction that has been recorded in the past few months since the announcement of the truce.”
Fighting has intensified in Syria during recent weeks, all but destroying a fragile truce that was agreed at the end of February.
On Monday, an Islamic State (IS, previously known as ISIS/ISIL) car bomb killed at least six people and possibly many more in a district south of Damascus, according to Reuters. The blast took place at a Syrian army checkpoint, and this area has already been hit by two bomb attacks this year.
The government forces and rebels exchanged blame for violations that have left over 70 people dead in Aleppo alone since Friday. The UN envoy Staffan de Mistura who is leading the Geneva talks between the belligerent parties warned that the ceasefire was in trouble but said he would continue the negotiations despite the walkout by the opposition.
The opposition says it has called for a "pause" to negotiations, although it is unwilling to accept blame for the possible failure of the talks, according to Reuters.
On Monday, Moscow voiced serious concerns about the degeneration of the peace talks in Geneva.
"Russia has been consistently doing whatever it can to help develop and support this negotiating process, and not allow this process to be disrupted," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said.
"At the same time, we still state with serious concern that the situation is degenerating at these negotiations."