Aleppo cowers under intense bombardment

BEIRUT/ALEPPO • Residents in Syria's battleground city of Aleppo cowered indoors yesterday as fierce air strikes toppled buildings and killed at least 32 civilians, after diplomatic efforts to revive a ceasefire failed.

Nearly two million civilians were without water in the ruined northern city after regime bombardment damaged a pumping station and rebels shut down another in retaliation, the United Nations said.

Rebel-held districts in east Aleppo came under intense air and artillery fire for a fifth night as the army prepared a ground offensive to recapture the entire divided city.

Yesterday's death toll of 32 is expected to rise because people remained trapped under rubble, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a British-based monitoring group.

"We were home when a missile crashed into our road," said one resident of the Bab al-Nayrab district who gave his name as Nizar.

"Half of the building just caved in and our baby was hit in the head. He died on the spot," Mr Nizar said as the body of his son lay on the ground wrapped in a blanket.

On Friday, at least 47 people were killed in heavy bombing, among them seven children, according to the Observatory. There was massive destruction in several neighbourhoods, including Al-Kalasseh and Bustan al-Qasr, where some streets were almost erased by the bombardment.

Unexploded rockets were still buried in the roads in some areas, and elsewhere enormous craters had been left by the bombing.

Residents and activists described the use of a missile that produced earthquake-like tremors upon impact and razed buildings down to basement level, where many residents desperately seek protection during bombing.

Yesterday morning, the streets were nearly empty, with just a few residents out looking for bread. The United Nations Children's Fund said that the loss of mains supply posed serious health risks in rebel-held areas as the only alternative source of drinking water was from highly contaminated wells.

The approximately 250,000 people in east Aleppo have been under near-continuous siege since government troops encircled the area in mid-July.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on September 25, 2016, with the headline 'Aleppo cowers under intense bombardment'. Print Edition | Subscribe