08/08/2016, 09.26
SYRIA
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Aleppo, Syrian and Russian aircraft deployed to stop rebel advance

Government forces, aided by Moscow, have launched a massive bombing campaign. The rebels have reportedly broken the army siege of Damascus and launched a counteroffensive. Families in western districts of city race to purchase of water and food.

Aleppo (AsiaNews / Agencies) - Syrian government forces have launched a massive campaign of air strikes against the rebels who, in recent days, have advanced in Aleppo. Damascus sources have posted footage of an air control center indicating "enemy targets" in the southwest sector of the second largest city in Syria.

Earlier the rebels broke the government army siege after weeks, which was later strongly denied by the government.

The Syrian air raid are also confirmed by local witnesses and media reports in the area and are concentrated in areas controlled by the rebels. Russian fighter jets have also taken part in the raids, although there is no official confirmation from Moscow.

Meanwhile, the coalition that is opposed to President Bashar al-Assad announced that it has doubled the number of combatants, in order to launch a new offensive and take complete control of Aleppo. The government deny these statements claiming that the rebels have not made any significant advance.

According to said Rami Abdel Rahman, head of the London based Syrian Observatory on Human Rights, the rebel attack caused one of the worst setbacks for the government forces since the start of the conflict in March 2011. "Despite the more than 600 Russian air strikes - he adds – government troops have failed to keep their positions."

Official Syrian state media have repeatedly denied the breaking the siege by the rebels, while admitting that the regular army is now on the defensive. In addition, areas of Aleppo under the control of Damascus are beginning to lack food and basic necessities. In view of a possible siege, families in the western districts have rushed to stock up on supplies of food and water, while food prices have already registered staggering increases.

The city, formerly the economic and commercial heart of the country, is one of the war's most violent fronts with rebel forces battling to wrest parts of the city back from army control.

Even Pope Francis has appealed against this most recent escalation of violence. Speaking yesterday at the end of his Angelus reflection he condemned “reports of civilian victims of war” emerging from the conflict zone.

He stated that it is "unacceptable" that "so many helpless people - including many children - have to pay the price of conflict, the price of closed hearts and the powerful's lack of will for peace”. Finally, he confirmed "the prayer and solidarity with our Syrian brothers and sisters, and we entrust them to the maternal protection of the Virgin Mary."

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