Shelling and air strikes rained down as fighting in Aleppo continued Sunday for the third day in a row, killing at least 26 people as the death toll rises in Syria’s largest city and former commercial center, ABC News reported.
Located in northern Syria, Aleppo has been the focus of a bitter battle between insurgents and government forces since 2012, with opposition groups now controlling the eastern part of the city while government units work to strangle routes to and from the area held by rebels. According to SANA – Syria’s state news agency – as well as local activists working to help provide support after the fighting in Aleppo, at least 10 people died from opposition shelling on government-controlled sections of the city. According to the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, at least two of those killed were young siblings. Air strikes against the rebels killed an additional 16 people Sunday, including a mother and daughter.
“A video posted on social media by the Syrian Civil Defense first responder group, known as the White Helmets and which operates in opposition-held areas, suggests that some of the strikes hit a market in the neighborhood of Sakhour, with footage showing overturned vegetable carts strewed among the wreckage.”
The rebel attacks come after the opposition’s High Negotiations Committee (HNC) suspended its participation in peace talks with the government in Geneva last week and began a new round of fighting in Aleppo, a move government officials called an “attack on the Geneva process that is the only possible pathway to peace.”
Although a ceasefire agreement signed nearly two months ago is technically still in place, it appears to have unraveled on the ground as fighting in Aleppo and violence has returned to most of Syria’s most hotly contested areas. According to ABC, the rebel coalition threatened to dissolve the truce if government forces continue to strike civilians in areas the opposition has taken under control. Al-Qaida in Syria, as well as the Islamic State group and Nusra Front, are not included in the ceasefire.
“After a brief respite, bombs are falling heavily on Aleppo, forcing people there to think again about whether it is time to get out of a city at the epicenter of the Syrian war,” wrote Reuters.
The fighting in Aleppo marks a violent end to the temporary truce; the parks are empty, the streets mostly deserted, and residents counting the explosions and mourning the rising death toll as the government and rebels vie for control of the city. Still, as bad as things are, the future could be much worse as the government plans new attacks on areas of Aleppo that are still under rebel control and air strikes have resumed to seal the last route into and out of these areas.
“People are most terrified of the air strikes,” stated Abdul Moneim Juneid, who works at an orphanage in Aleppo. “People had felt tangibly the benefits of the truce and yearned for security.”
In response, the rebel forces have stepped up efforts to keep their supply routes open by bombarding government-controlled areas, as well as a Kurdish district that is controlled by a militia. Still, those civilians caught in the middle have nowhere to go since Turkey closed its borders.
“If Turkey had opened the borders, you would have seen the population of Aleppo go down by half.”
[Photo by Syrian Civil Defense White Helmets via AP video]