Syria: More than 500 civilians killed in one week

Syria: More than 500 civilians killed in one week
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More than 500 Syrian civilians have been killed in a single week, mostly in regime and Russian air raids and shelling, across several cities in the war-torn country.

Casualty figures released on Saturday by the Local Coordination Committees (LCC), a grassroots network of activists in Syria, recorded 508 civilians killed between August 13 and August 19, including 96 children and 73 women.

Most of the deaths occurred in Russian and Syrian aerial bombardment across Aleppo, Idlib, Damascus, and Hama, according to the LCC.

In the northern Syrian city of Aleppo and its suburbs, at least 205 of the total 508 were killed in shelling of the city's previously-besieged eastern neighborhoods, and in clashes with Assad forces in the battle to break the siege. Deaths were also reported from landmines left by the ISIL group around the town of Manbij.

Moataz Hamouda, an Aleppo-based activist with the LCC, said civilian deaths have increased as the Assad regime has lost ground.

"Russia is responding to its military defeats on Aleppo's fronts after the strong blow that the opposition forces dealt to regime loyalists," Hamouda told Al Jazeera, referring to the breaking of the Aleppo siege.

"The breaking of the city's siege and the takeover of military forts by opposition forces has also frustrated Syria and Russia," he said.

"They have also frantically increased their use of banned weapons - from cluster missiles to white phosphorous and napalm."

Numerous reports have emerged in recent days of Syrian regime forces using cluster munitions, which are banned by more than 100 countries due to the weapon's indiscriminate targeting and risks posed to civilians.

Once Syria's largest city, Aleppo has been divided between opposition control in the eastern half, and regime control in the west since mid-2012. Regime forces launched an offensive to retake the opposition-held half of the city, imposing a month-long siege that was eventually broken.

"Civilians fear the warplanes"

The LCC also recorded the killing of 93 civilians in Idlib, 52 in Homs, 51 in Damascus, 38 in Deir Ezzor, and 34 in Hama, with the majority being killed in air raids and fighting involving forces loyal to Bashar al-Assad, backed by Russian and Iranian forces.

Residential areas, mosques and markets are being increasingly hit, said Zouhir al-Shimale, a local journalist and resident of Aleppo.
Syrian boy rescued from rubble

"Apart from the daily targeting of Aleppo’s neighborhoods with cluster bombs in an unprecedented way, tens of activists and civilians have been killed and injured in recent days," Shimale told Al Jazeera.

"This is causing a large exodus from the city, from Aleppo’s liberated neighborhoods in the eastern half, to the suburbs, and to Turkey as well, in spite of the availability of food supplies," he said.

"Civilians fear the warplanes that are always in the sky."

Shimale said that close to half of the city’s residents are estimated to have left the city amid the ongoing aerial bombardment of main roads and residential areas.

Staffan de Mistura, United Nations special envoy to Syria, called for a 48-hour truce around Aleppo last week, to allow for aid deliveries and medical evacuations.

Ibrahim al-Hajj, media center director in Aleppo for the Syrian Civil Defense, a volunteer rescue group also known as the White Helmets, said the Syrian government's recent loss of strategic areas in the besieged city, particularly al-Ramosa and the artillery school, had prompted the escalation in attacks.

"Russia and the Syrian regime have been targeting civilians and residential areas the most," Hajj said.

"They want to free the area of civilians and coerce them into leaving so that they can bomb their targets freely."

PHOTO CAPTION

Map of Syria

Source: Aljazeera.com

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