The Syrian “ceasefire” decisively ended with a massive attack on the besieged city of Aleppo by Syrian regime (and, allegedly, Russian) forces, with Syrian officials saying a ground operation is imminent as well.
Opposition media told CNN at least 70 people were killed by intense airstrikes over the past two days, which destroyed the main water pumping station — which serviced both regime- and opposition-controlled neighborhoods — in a city already viewed as a horrifying humanitarian crisis.
“Activists say allied Russian forces have also participated in the strikes, though Moscow has not confirmed its involvement,” CNN adds.
According to these accounts, almost every neighborhood in Aleppo was hit, leaving residents trapped beneath mountains of rubble. Sky News reports footage of a five-year-old girl being pulled from beneath the ruins of her home, wailing in anguish as a rescuer dragged her to safety by her ponytail.
Her mother, father, three sisters, and brother were killed in the attack, while Sky News reports the girl’s ultimate fate remains unknown.
The Associated Press quotes a Syrian official saying airstrikes and shelling may “continue for an extended period,” and the operation will “include a ground offensive.”
Assad’s fighters “deliberately targeted” facilities used by the Syria Civil Defense Service, also known as the “White Helmets,” with Reuters reporting that three out of four Civil Defense centers in Aleppo were hit on Friday morning. The White Helmets are a volunteer rescue force that was recently nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.
“What’s happening now is annihilation,” said White Helmets chief Ammar al Selmo.
NPR quotes Selmo saying he “intercepted pilots’ communications and heard them getting orders to bomb his colleagues.”
The head of another local civil society group told NPR the Syrian regime was hitting Aleppo with bombs that leave five-foot-deep craters: “the biggest thing we’ve seen since the beginning of the violence, not in Aleppo and not anywhere else.”
A third humanitarian group, Save the Children, reported a 25-year-old medic was hit by shrapnel from a phosphorous bomb that struck the building he lived in. He was trying to put out the fires when he sustained injuries to his chest and eyes, plus burns over 20 percent of his body.
Reuters notes the bombing began just hours after Secretary of State Kerry met with members of the White Helmets on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly. He called them “brave first responders” and said he was “honored to meet their leader.”
Kerry reportedly found out about the devastation of Aleppo when his chief of staff showed him the news on his Blackberry while Kerry was in the middle of a meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.
The Russians were trying to convince Kerry to pressure rebel forces into holding their fire for another three days. Upon learning of the Aleppo attack, Kerry reportedly cried, “Even while we are meeting here, they are doing this!”