Syrian army says rebel bombardment of Aleppo killed 84 in three days
BEIRUTSyria’s army said on Oct. 31 that the Nusra Front and what the army called other terrorist groups had killed 84 people, mostly women and children, in Aleppo during the past three days, in a bombardment that included chemical weapons and rocket fire.
The Nusra Front broke allegiance with al-Qaeda and changed its name to Jabhat Fateh al-Sham in July. It is one of the main rebel groups taking part in an offensive against government-held western Aleppo that began on Oct. 28.
Syrian state media reported on Oct. 30 that militants had fired poison gas at the Hamdaniya district of government-held western Aleppo. Rebels called that accusation a lie.
In a statement on Oct. 31, the Army and Armed Forces High Command said rebels had targeted schools and civilians, fired 20 poison gas canisters, 50 Grad rockets and ignited 48 fires, Reuters reported.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based war monitor, said it had recorded 48 deaths since the rebel offensive began, including 17 children.
U.N. peace envoy to Syria Staffan de Mistura on Oct. 30 strongly condemned deadly rocket attacks by rebels targeting civilian areas in western Aleppo.
“Credible reports... indicate that scores of civilians in west Aleppo have been killed, including several children, and hundreds wounded due to relentless and indiscriminate attacks from armed opposition groups,” De Mistura’s office said in a statement, AFP reported.
“[The envoy] is appalled and shocked by the high number of rockets indiscriminately launched by armed opposition groups on civilian suburbs of western Aleppo in the last 48 hours.”
Human rights groups and Western countries have previously accused Syria’s army, backed by Russia’s air force, of targeting hospitals, bakeries and other civilian areas in their bombardments of rebel areas, including eastern Aleppo.
A U.N. report, attacked by Russia as not having credibility, has also found that the Syrian military has used chemical weapons at least twice, something it denies. Damascus refers to all the rebel groups fighting it as terrorists.
The insurgent offensive against government-held western Aleppo comes more than a month into an operation by the army to retake the city’s rebel-held eastern districts, which it had already put under siege.
(HH) Half of Russians fear Syria could spark WWIII: poll
Meanwhile, nearly half of Russians fear that Moscow’s bombing campaign in Syria could spark World War III, a poll showed Oct. 31.
Moscow, an ally of Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad, has been staging bombing raids in Syria since September 2015.
Forty-eight percent of Russians were concerned that “heightened tensions in relations between Russia and the West could grow into World War III,” according to a poll conducted by independent pollster Levada Centre last week.
That figure was up from 29 percent in July this year.
Moscow’s air strikes have negatively affected the way Russia is perceived internationally, 32 percent said, up from 16 percent in November.
Nevertheless, 52 percent of Russians said they back Moscow’s air strikes, while 26 percent said they opposed them.
Asked whether Russia should continue “intervening in what is going on in Syria,” 49 percent said yes, while 28 percent said no.