Beirut / AFP
Russian and Syrian warplanes pounded Aleppo again on Thursday after two days of heavy bombardment that killed more than 70 civilians, as world powers prepared for last-ditch weekend talks on a ceasefire.
More than 20 air strikes hit the rebel-controlled east at dawn on Thursday, killing seven civilians, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group said.
On the northeastern outskirts of the city, advancing regime troops captured several hilltops overlooking opposition-held areas.
Syrian state television said four children were killed by rebel rocket fire on a school in a western regime-held neighbourhood.
Seven children were among 71 civilians killed in strikes and regime artillery fire on eastern districts on Tuesday and Wednesday, Observatory head Rami Abdel Rahman said.
Opposition shelling on government-held districts of the city, meanwhile, killed at least eight civilians over those two days, according to the British-based monitor, which relies on a network of sources on the ground.
Since the army announced its assault on the city on September 22, Russian and government bombardment on the eastern districts has killed more than 370 people, including 68 children, according to an Observatory toll.
A new diplomatic push will take place this weekend. US Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov are expected to be joined in Lausanne on Saturday by counterparts from Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar — all backers of Syrian opposition forces.
Neither side has confirmed an invitation to Iran, a key player in the conflict and an ally of Assad.
Moscow ready for ‘safe withdrawal’ of armed rebels
Russia on Thursday said it was ready to guarantee safe passage for rebels to quit eastern Aleppo with their weapons, amid fierce Western criticism of its bombing campaign.
“We are ready to ensure the safe withdrawal of armed rebels, the unimpeded passage of civilians to and from eastern Aleppo, as well as the delivery of humanitarian aid there,” Russian Lieutenant General Sergei Rudskoy said in a televised briefing.
Syrian suspect in Germany bomb plot found dead in cell
A Syrian man arrested on suspicion of plotting a jihadist bomb attack on a Berlin airport was found dead in his cell Wednesday after an apparent suicide, sparking outrage over a “judicial scandal”.
Jaber Albakr, who was arrested two days earlier following a nationwide manhunt after police found explosives in his apartment, was discovered hanged in his jail cell in the eastern city of Leipzig, reported Germany’s Bild daily and national news agency DPA.
“Jaber Albakr took his own life in the Leipzig prison hospital,” the government of the eastern, ex-communist state of Saxony said in a statement, without elaborating.