Syrian government forces launch a new offensive in Aleppo as top diplomats fail to restore ceasefire.
The Russian defence ministry said Russian and Syrian military planes did not launch air strikes on Aleppo over the past week, contradicting a monitor and opposition fighters on the ground who claim frontline areas have been bombed since Saturday.
Major-General Igor Konashenkov said in a statement on Tuesday that Russian and Syrian planes had not even approached, let alone bombed, the devastated city since Moscow pledged to suspend air strikes a week earlier.
“Flights over Aleppo by the Russian and Syrian air forces have been completely halted for the past seven days,” said Konashenkov.
Six humanitarian corridors in eastern Aleppo, which opened as part of the pause in hostilities to allow civilians to flee, were still operating, said Konashenkov.
He said 48 women and children had left the city late on Monday, escorted by Russian military officers.
UK-based monitoring group, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, on the other hand, said air strikes had hit frontline areas of clashes in the city since the lull ended on Saturday, for example in southwest Aleppo city.
Air strikes continued on Tuesday outside the city to its west and north, the monitor said.
The activist-run Shahba Press reported on Monday that government artillery shelled the strategically important village of Khan Touman, which overlooks the highway connecting Aleppo and government-held cities in the centre of the country.
Aleppo was Syria’s most populous city before the war, but is now divided into government and rebel-held areas.
Intense bombardment has reduced the rebel-held east of the city to ruins.
Russia has repeatedly complained that its efforts to help civilians to evacuate have been thwarted by rebel fighters who it says opened fire on anyone wanting to leave.
Rebels did not accept the ceasefire, which they say does nothing to alleviate the situation of those who choose to remain in eastern Aleppo. They believe the ceasefire is part of a government policy to purge cities of political opponents.
Syria’s state-run SANA news agency reported on Tuesday that government forces had captured territory from rebels in the southwestern countryside of Aleppo.
They have retaken the town of Talet Bazo which was controlled by Jabhat Fateh al-Sham, it said.
The area is near military bases and was considered to be one of the last strongholds of the armed group in the divided city.
Meanwhile, in Damascus and Idlib, at least 20 have been killed in heavy fighting as government and Russian air strikes targeted a number of towns in the north and south of Idlib.
In Damascus, government forces launched attacks on residential areas in the Douma area.
Dozens of people were also injured during the fighting.