Hundreds of new airstrikes over east Aleppo leave residents ‘hoping for death’

AMMAN: The Civil Defense and activists in regime-encircled east Aleppo say that hundreds of airstrikes over the past 48 hours have killed dozens of civilians on Wednesday and destroyed nearly an entire neighborhood.

Russian jets conducted "at least 200 airstrikes" over Aleppo’s besieged, bombed-out eastern enclave Wednesday, killing 42 people and injuring at least 82 more, Ibrahim Haj, a Civil Defense spokesman in east Aleppo, told Syria Direct.

The escalation included “dozens of barrel bombs and airstrikes dropped over residential neighborhoods,” particularly the frontline neighborhoods of Sukkari and Shaar, Mohammad al-Halabi, an activist in east Aleppo, told Syria Direct.

One “bomb fell and exploded over Shaar, destroying the entire neighborhood,” he said. “Children, women and elderly people are still trapped under the debris.”

Rows of residential blocks in Sukkari, an east Aleppo district south of Shaar, lay in ruins, apartment buildings pancaked and reduced to rubble in a video shared Wednesday by the Civil Defense, the volunteer first-response organization. Men in Civil Defense uniforms searched amid crumbled buildings, some in flames, for survivors and victims.

Civil Defense search-and-rescue teams were “spread out all over east Aleppo” on Wednesday, digging out residents from beneath bombed-out buildings, Ibrahim Haj, the group’s east Aleppo spokesman, told Syria Direct. “They still aren’t finished.”

In Sukkari's al-Quds hospital, doctors are facing at least 12 cases of “head and spinal cord injuries” as of Wednesday afternoon, Hamza, the hospital’s director, told Syria Direct.

 East Aleppo's Sukkari neighborhood on Wednesday. Photo courtesy Syrian Civil Defense- Aleppo.

Wednesday’s airstrikes come one day after Russia announced the launch of an air offensive against opposition militias across Syria.

The Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoygu said on Tuesday that airstrikes would target “the Islamic State and Jabhat al-Nusra in the provinces of Idlib and Homs,” including weapons depots and militant training centers, Russian state news agency Tass reported the same day.

Tass did not report any bombardment over east Aleppo over the last two days, but quoted Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov on Wednesday as saying that “a pause in airstrikes has been extended” over the city’s regime-encircled eastern enclave.

Syrian state media did not report the airstrikes over east Aleppo.

Tuesday and Wednesday’s escalation follows weeks of relative calm in regime-encircled eastern Aleppo city, where a previous Russian aerial bombardment campaign slowed down due to a shaky ceasefire agreement in October.

However, as Russia’s Admiral Kuznetsov aircraft carrier, which is capable of holding as many as 40 planes, began moving toward Syria in late October, it raised fears that Russian forces would be involved in yet another deadly assault on east Aleppo. NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg warned at a recent press conference that the ship would “support military operations in Syria in ways which will increase humanitarian and human suffering.”

Since Tuesday, the ship has participated in the renewed bombardment across Syria, including concentrated airstrikes over encircled east Aleppo.

People living away from concentrated airstrikes on Wednesday said there was next to nothing they could do to prepare themselves for more. At a charity-run orphanage struck by alleged regime shells earlier this month, the director on Wednesday said he had no way to keep his charges safe, should the bombs strike closer.

“There is nothing we can do,” Asmar al-Halabi, the orphanage’s director, told Syria Direct. “All we can do is bring the kids downstairs into the bomb shelter.”

Residents are “hoping for death, because they are trapped in this situation,” said Abdullah al-Halabi, another civilian living in east Aleppo.

“There is nothing they can do but wait for death.”

Waleed Khaled a-Noufal

Waleed a-Noufal was born in Ankhel in northern Daraa province. He attended high school in Ankhel but could not continue his study because of security reasons. Waleed worked as an activist in his local city council and the Umayya Media Center. In 2013, he moved to Jordan and finished his high school degree. Waleed wants to bring about a solution to the current crisis through his reporting.

Alaa Nassar

Alaa was forced to flee Damascus with her family because of the pressure from the Syrian regime in 2013. She was a student of Arabic Language & Literature at the University of Damascus. She came to Syria Direct because she hopes to find a new direction in her life and to show the world what is happening in her country.

Madeline Edwards

Madeline Edwards graduated from the College of Charleston in 2016 and previously reported for The Daily Star in Beirut.