ALEPPO, Syria: Suspected Russian air strikes have killed at least 46 people in opposition-held parts of Syria, a monitor said, as the United Nations Security Council prepares to vote on Monday (Tuesday in Manila) on a resolution demanding a temporary ceasefire in Aleppo.
Syria’s government is waging a fierce offensive to recapture all of second city Aleppo, and it has so far captured more than 60 percent of eastern districts that fell to rebels in 2012.
In Idlib province, in northwest Syria, at least 26 civilians were killed in suspected Russian strikes on the town of Kafr Nabel, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitor said.
An eyewitness told Agence France-Presse warplanes hit several places in the town, including a market.
The Observatory says it determines whose planes carry out raids according to their type, location, flight patterns and the munitions involved.
The group said 18 people were also killed in suspected Russian strikes on the town of Maaret al-Numan, where an AFP photographer saw rescue workers and residents trying to pull survivors from rubble at a market.
The monitor reported two additional deaths, one in an earlier strike on Maaret al-Numan and another in Al-Naqir, also in Idlib.
It said six civilians, four of them children, had been killed in a government barrel bomb attack on the town of Al-Tamanah in the same province.
Russia, a staunch ally of President Bashar al-Assad’s government, began a military intervention in support of Damascus in September 2015.
Moscow says it is targeting “terrorists” and has dismissed reports of civilian casualties in its strikes.
Army advances in Aleppo
Following lengthy negotiations with a highly resistant Russia, the UN Security Council will Monday vote on a text — drawn up by Egypt, New Zealand and Spain — calling for a truce of at least seven days in Aleppo and humanitarian access to residents trapped in the fighting.
It remains uncertain whether Moscow will use its veto in the council to torpedo the measure after it proposed a renewable truce of only 24 hours, and for militant groups such as the Al-Nusra Front to be excluded.
In east Aleppo, government forces advanced against rebels, taking three neighbourhoods and pushing into a fourth, state media and the Russian defense ministry said.
The army and allied forces are nearly three weeks into an operation to recapture all of the city, divided between regime and rebel forces since 2012.
Tens of thousands of civilians have fled the offensive, which has made steady gains and threatens to deal Syria’s opposition its worst defeat in the five-year civil war.
State television said late Sunday the army had captured the districts of Karm al-Tahan and Myessar and advanced into the Qadi Askar neighbourhood.
The Russian defense ministry said regime forces had also taken the district of Karm al-Katurji.
Rebels are increasingly under pressure in the remaining southeastern districts they control.
State news agency SANA said the air force was dropping leaflets over rebel-held areas urging “militants to abandon their weapons and… allow civilians and the sick and wounded to leave.”
Damascus says rebels are preventing civilians from leaving the east and trying to use them as human shields.
But tens of thousands of residents have fled the east as the army has advanced, with some heading south to remaining rebel territory and others going to areas under government or Kurdish control.
At least 311 civilians, including 42 children, have been killed in east Aleppo since the government assault began, the Observatory says.