Aleppo airstrikes kill at least 50 civilians in rebel-held areas

The city could be completely destroyed before Christmas, UN warns

Aleppo airstrikes kill at least 50 civilians in rebel-held areas

This 2012 file photo shows smoke billowing skyward as homes and buildings are shelled in the city of Homs, Syria | Image: UN Photo/David Manyua

Rebel-held eastern Aleppo has again been bombarded from the air, less than a week after a United Nations warning that it could be completely destroyed before Christmas.

Residents and rescue workers reported at least 50 civilian deaths in the city and surrounding villages, according to the Reuters news agency.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Russian jets had been involved.

"There is renewed bombardment and it is heavy," said Zakaria Malhifji, from the Fastaqim rebel group.

He said the Bustan al-Qasr neighbourhood had been worst affected, with residents reporting that a medical centre and children's playground had been hit.

The activist-run Aleppo Today TV station said bunker-busting bombs had been used.

Nearby villages were also affected by the attacks.

An intensive aerial campaign resumed when a recent ceasefire collapsed after only a week.

The latest bombardment is said to be the heaviest since the Syrian regime said last Wednesday that attacks would be eased, partly to allow civilians to leave opposition-held eastern neighbourhoods.

Boy pulled from rubble

Rebels could also go with their families, the Syrian government said, if they laid down their arms. But the insurgents dismissed it as a deception.

Amid the gloom, there was one piece of good news: amateur video showed a boy being pulled from the rubble in the al-Fardos neighbourhood of Aleppo.

Rescue workers from the Syrian Civil Defence, also known as the White Helmets, shouted "Allahu Akbar" (God is greatest) as they pulled him free, suggesting he was still alive.

Last week, the UN special envoy to Syria warned that eastern Aleppo could be totally destroyed in just 10 weeks.

Staffan de Mistura said that "cruel, constant" military activity meant that thousands of citizens were likely to be killed.

The besieged population of 275,000 - including 100,000 children - is in desperate need of aid supplies.

Aleppo was not the only area attacked on Tuesday.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and state media reported the shelling of a school by insurgents had killed at least five people, including children, in the southern city of Daraa.

Daraa is also split between Syrian government and rebel control.

Syria's official news agency, SANA, also reported shelling by opposition groups in Damascus. Several mortar shells reportedly landed in the residential Qasaa district, wounding a number of people.