Russian forces continue to pound Aleppo with airstrikes
The Syrian Center for Policy Research, a Beirut-based NGO, has put the total death toll from the five-year-old conflict at more than 470,000. (AFP/File)
Syria's opposition-held city of Aleppo has been pounded by intense airstrikes carried out by both Russia and the Assad regime for the past 24 hours, local civil defense sources said Wednesday.
Baybars Meshaal, a civil defense official based in Aleppo, told Anadolu Agency that the opposition-held towns of Al-Shear, Salahaddin, Haydariyah, Al-Sahur, Muyesir and Misqan Khanuna have also been subject to fierce artillery attacks by regime forces.
"Civil defense teams and paramedics are having trouble reaching targeted areas due to the intensity of the attacks," he said.
"Local residents are afraid to leave their homes," he added.
According to Meshaal, at least six people were killed -- and dozens injured -- when an ambulance was struck by warplanes.
"They're striking anything that moves," he said. "The city's in a state of panic. Even the injured can't be taken to hospital."
On Tuesday, another local civil defense source, Najib Ensari, told Anadolu Agency that seven civilians had been killed -- and 45 injured -- by Russian airstrikes carried out east of Aleppo.
"Russian warplanes targeted the opposition-held towns of Al-Shear, Misqan Khanuna, Muyesir, Karm al-Tarrab, Firdous and Al-Sukkari," Ensari said.
On the same day, Russia used its only aircraft carrier -- for the first time -- to launch missile strikes against opposition-held positions in Syria, according to Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu.
According to the Russian Defense Ministry, cruise missiles and fighter jets from the aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsov were involved in the offensive.
The U.S. State Department condemned Tuesday's strikes -- which reportedly targeted civilian infrastructure -- as a violation of international law.
At a press briefing, U.S. State Department spokesperson Elizabeth Trudeau described continued Russian airstrikes on Wednesday as a "disappointment".
Pentagon spokesman Jeff Davis, for his part, said he hoped the ongoing airstrikes did not constitute an attempt to change the balance of power in Aleppo amid the transition of power in Washington following last week's U.S. presidential elections.
"From a purely military perspective, Russia already has significant capabilities inside Syria," Davis said.
"Anything they bring in from outside -- if it's aircraft carriers or if it's cruise missiles launched from ships or if it's long-range strike bombers flying in from Russia -- those are done for show," he added.
Syria has been locked in a vicious civil war since early 2011, when the Assad regime cracked down on pro-democracy protests with unexpected ferocity.
Since then, hundreds of thousands of people have been killed -- and more than 10 million displaced -- across the war-battered country, according to UN figures.
The Syrian Center for Policy Research, a Beirut-based NGO, has put the total death toll from the five-year-old conflict at more than 470,000.
In Sept. 30 of last year, Russia launched an extensive air campaign in Syria with the aim of propping up the embattled regime of Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad.
By Halit Suleyman