Fierce fighting, bombardment shake Aleppo

Many civilians injured in heavy tank firing, residents flee to find shelter

ALEPPO: Fierce fighting shook Syria’s Aleppo on Wednesday, killing at least seven people, as sources said a deal for the evacuation of civilians and fighters from remaining rebel-held areas was on hold.
State media said rebel fire on government-held parts of the city had killed seven people, and a monitor said air strikes on remaining rebel-held territory had resumed.
An AFP correspondent in a rebel-held area of east Aleppo saw several wounded civilians nearby as the area came under heavy tank fire. Terrified residents were running through the streets in a fruitless bid to find adequate shelter, he said.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported shelling by both sides and “very intense clashes on every front line”.
“Syrian forces have fired dozens of shells since this morning on areas held by the opposition factions, which have also fired at least eight shells so far into government-controlled areas,” Observatory head Rami Abdel Rahman said.
Six people were killed and others wounded in rebel fire on the government-held Bustan al Qasr neighbourhood, state television said.
A seventh person was killed and more wounded in other government-held parts of the city, the television reported.
Government warplanes carried out strikes in several parts of the small pocket of territory still held by rebels in east Aleppo, the Observatory said.
The fighting erupted after several hours of calm following the announcement on Tuesday of a deal brokered by Russia and Turkey for the evacuation of civilians and rebel fighters.
The deal was to put an end to the army’s month-long offensive on east Aleppo during which it has retaken more than 90 per cent of the onetime rebel stronghold.
Meanwhile, the UN’s Commission of Inquiry for Syria (COI) said it had received reports that opposition fighters were blocking civilians from fleeing Aleppo and using them as human shields. In a statement, the COI said it had “allegations of opposition groups… preventing civilians from leaving as well as opposition fighters embedding themselves within the civilian population, thus heightening the risk to civilians of being killed or injured”.