Syrian regime air raids kill 53 in Aleppo

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Fifty-three people were killed in the last twenty-four hours as Syrian government planes continued to drop barrel bombs on rebel-held neighborhoods of Aleppo, a monitoring group said.

“Among those killed were 15 children as well as women,” the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported.

The raids have targeted since Wednesday the rebel-held areas of al-Shaar, al-Kalasa, al-Saliheen and al-Maghaber, all in the city of Aleppo, the watchdog said.

The head of the Observatory, Rami Abdel Rahman, told dpa that a number of civilians were severely wounded, with some losing limbs and others were pulled from under the rubble after being trapped for hours.

He added there are still people missing under rubble.

The regime raids came after rebels on Tuesday shelled regime held areas in Aleppo city killing 38 people including children.

Fighting in Aleppo erupted in mid-2012, and control of the city has since been divided between rebels and the regime.

The Syrian conflict, which started when government forces brutally repressed peaceful protests in 2011, has descended into a multi-sided civil war between regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, an array of mainly Islamist rebel groups, the Islamic State militant group and the Kurds.

The violence in Aleppo, came as Syria’s foreign minister Walid al Moallem denied that there are Russian troops fighting alongside the Syrian army in his country.

“Currently Russia is not involved in the fighting in Syria, but if we felt it is needed in the future we would ask from the Russian forces to fight alongside our army,” al Moallem was quoted as saying by Syrian State television.

Western countries are concerned about Russian military aid and possible Russian forces in combat in support of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, a Moscow ally.

Russia’s Foreign Ministry said last week that the country is openly sending humanitarian aid and military equipment to al-Assad’s government to “fight terrorism,” especially Islamic State.

The Syrian Observatory for Human rights also revealed on Sunday that Russia is building an airstrip in latakia, a stronghold of the Syrian regime, and has brought hundreds of technicians and military advisers to the area.

According to the monitoring group the Russians are building a long runway in a military airport in Lakatia inorder to be able to accomodate large aircraft.

Al-Assad’s troops have in recent months suffered major territorial losses, mainly to Islamist rebels like the terrorist organization Islamic State.

Meanwhile, Syria told visiting UN special envoy, Staffan de Mistura, that fighting what it called “terrorism” held the key to ending the country’s conflict now in its fifth year, Syria’s official news agency SANA reported.

De Mistura arrived in Damascus earlier on Thursday and met with Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem.

In an interview published on Wednesday, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad said his country’s crisis could not be solved without defeat of terrorism,” referring to the armed rebellion aimed at ousting him.

De Mistura is expected to meet al-Assad on Friday.

More than half the country’s pre-war population of 22.4 million has been internally displaced or fled abroad.

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