Syrian government forces bombarded residential districts of Aleppo on Sunday, killing and wounding dozens of people and exacerbating a water shortage in Syria’s biggest city after a pipeline burst, activists said.
Air strikes and artillery targeted several districts, including Midan, where rebels have been trying to seize territory from the government. In Bustan al-Basha, a nearby rebel stronghold, the main water pipe was damaged on Saturday.
Later, a car bomb killed 17 civilians and wounded 40 others, state media said.
President Bashar al-Assad has resorted increasingly to devastating aerial bombardment to counter rebels fighting to overthrow him after they took control of residential neighbourhoods and made forays into the centre of Aleppo, Syria’s commercial and industrial capital.
The bombardment of the Aleppo districts came after rebels overran an army barracks in the city.
The governor of Aleppo province, Mohammed Akkad, blamed “terrorists” for breaking the Midan water main as well as two other pipelines in Suleiman al-Halabi district.
Rebel advances have forced Assad to deploy warplanes, major armoured forces and thousands of troops to prevent the fall of Aleppo, which would free up supply lines to the interior of Syria from Turkey, where rebels have sheltered.
Decisive victory has eluded both sides, with rebels lacking heavy weapons needed to down aircraft and knock out artillery and Assad loath to send conscript troops of questionable loyalty into cities to re-establish dominance on the ground.
Instead, government forces have been bombarding population centres to try to turn residents against rebels dug in there,
according to diplomats following the revolt.
Sunday’s air raid destroyed a residential complex in the Hananu neighbourhood, one of several in eastern Aleppo under rebel control, opposition activists told the Reuters news agency by phone.
The death toll was not immediately clear, but dozens of bodies and wounded people were being dug out from the rubble. Activists said 28 people had been killed across Syria on Sunday.
Video footage from the area showed scores of people searching and digging in the debris of a flattened building.
Al Jazeera is unable to independently verify reports of violence, as the Syrian government has placed strict restrictions on reporting.
Damascus shelling continues
Aerial bombardment also wrecked a water pumping station in the Mayadeen district, activists added.
“There were rebels in the area, but this is not a justification to bomb civilian infrastructure,” activist Ahmad Saeed said.
A businessman who went from the northwest of the city to Hananu to bury his grandmother – Aleppo’s main cemetery is situated in the district – said the ground was shaking with artillery explosions.
“I passed by several Free Syrian Army checkpoints. The fighters looked quite relaxed. The army was nowhere to be seen but it was bombing heavily,” he said.
The eastern sector of Aleppo has drawn air strikes since rebels attacked the Hananu barracks and freed scores of army deserters, opposition campaigners said.
In the capital Damascus, the army continued to shell Sunni Muslim neighbourhoods supportive of the revolt.
Shelling again struck the Palestinian refugee camp of Yarmouk in south Damascus and the adjacent impoverished neighbourhood of Hajar al-Aswad, home to thousands of refugees from the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights.
Rebels have launched guerrilla attacks on loyalist forces from Sunni neighbourhoods and suburbs that surround Damascus, while Assad has increasingly relied on elite divisions comprised of his Alawite sect to keep overall control of the capital.
Meanwhile, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said on Sunday a new UN resolution on Syria would be pointless if it had “no teeth”, as Assad would ignore it.
Clinton said on Sunday that she was pessimistic about closing the gap with Russia on how to defuse the Syrian conflict ahead of a United Nations General Assembly later this month.
On a visit to Russia, Clinton said she was willing to work with Moscow on a new UN resolution on Syria but warned that the United States would step up support to end Assad’s regime if the measure did not carry consequences.
|Clinton said on Sunday a new UN resolution on Syria
would be pointless if it had ‘no teeth’ [Reuters]
Clinton said she made the case for increasing pressure on Assad in talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin and Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov at a summit of Pacific Rim states in Russia over the weekend.
“If we can make progress in New York in the run-up to the UN General Assembly, we can certainly try,” Clinton told
reporters. “But we have to be realistic. We haven’t seen eye-to-eye on Syria. That may continue. And if it does continue then we will work with like-minded states to support the Syrian opposition to hasten the day when Assad falls.”
Chinese and Russian leaders restated their firm opposition to what they see as American meddling in Syria. The United States, along with Gulf and European nations, has called for Assad’s ouster, while Russia, Syria’s most important ally and arms supplier, has opposed them.
“Our US partners prefer measures like threats, increased pressure and new sanctions against both Syria and Iran. We do not agree with this in principle,” Lavrov said.
Clinton said she would continue to work with Lavrov to see if the UN Security Council could formally endorse an agreement brokered by former special envoy Kofi Annan, which envisages a transitional governing authority for Syria.
But she added that such a step would only be effective if it carried specific penalties if Assad fails to comply, something Russia has repeatedly resisted.