BEIRUT (AP) — Residents of opposition-held eastern Aleppo woke up to a fresh wave of airstrikes Friday amid clashes between government forces and rebels, part of a devastating military campaign by Syria and Russia that opposition activists say killed dozens of people in the past week.
President Bashar Assad has voiced his intention to recapture the northern city's rebel-held eastern neighborhoods, saying a military victory in Aleppo would provide the Syrian army a "springboard" from which to liberate other areas of the country.
"You have to keep cleaning this area and to push the terrorists to Turkey to go back to where they came from, or to kill them. There's no other option," he said in an interview with a Russian media outlet, Komsomolskaya Pravda, released Thursday.
Syrian government forces have encircled the eastern half of Aleppo, besieging tens of thousands of people and pounding the territory with airstrikes on daily basis. The siege and deadly bombardment has caused an international outcry with a number of countries and groups accusing Syria and Russia of war crimes in connection with attacks on medical facilities and aid convoys.
President Barack Obama planned to convene his National Security Council for a highly anticipated meeting about Syria on Friday. Having cut off diplomatic talks with Russia after a cease-fire in Syria failed, the Obama administration has been at a loss to find a new viable strategy to stem the violence even as the bloodshed in Aleppo and elsewhere continues to mount.
The violence also gives additional urgency to the upcoming meeting between Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry on efforts to find a peace deal in Syria in Switzerland on Saturday. It will be the first face-to-face contact between the two men since Washington broke off bilateral diplomatic contact with Moscow earlier this month.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights on Friday reported dozens of overnight airstrikes on eastern Aleppo. It added that clashes are taking place on the northern and southern edges of the city.
The Aleppo Media Center, an activist collective, said the airstrikes killed and wounded a number of people, with some buried under the debris.
The Observatory said Wednesday that at least 358 civilians had been killed in eastern Aleppo since the U.S. and Russian-brokered truce collapsed on Sept. 19. The U.N. says over 100 children have been killed in the campaign, which has also included a limited ground offensive.