Rebels launch assault in Syria’s Aleppo, diplomats try to revive truce

BEIRUT/MOSCOW(Reuters): Rebel fighters launched an assault in Syria’s divided northern city of Aleppo on Tuesday and fired rockets on a hospital in the latest violence to hit civilians as diplomats struggled to restore an unraveling ceasefire and resurrect peace talks.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a British-based group that monitors the conflict, said rebel rockets had killed 19 people in government-held territory, including an unspecified number at the al-Dabit hospital.

It described a rebel offensive that led to casualties on both sides. Rebels had hit a government gun position with a guided missile.

The Syrian state-run Ikhbariya news channel said three women were killed at the hospital and 17 people wounded. A Damascus Information Ministry statement called it a crime against humanity.

The rebel attack followed government air strikes on rebel areas, including one that hit a hospital last week, which medical charity Medecins Sans Frontieres said killed 55 civilians.

Aleppo has been the scene of the worst surge in fighting in recent days, wrecking the first major ceasefire of the five-year-old civil war, sponsored by the United States and Russia, which had held since February.

The United States and Russia have taken the leading roles in diplomacy since Moscow joined the war last year with an air campaign that tipped the balance of power in favor of President Bashar al-Assad, its ally.

In an effort to revive the ceasefire, temporary local truces have been put in place in two parts of Syria, but those have not been extended to Aleppo, Syria’s largest city before the war and its biggest strategic prize now.

U.N. Syria envoy Staffan de Mistura, who met U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry in Geneva on Monday and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in Moscow on Tuesday, said he hoped the truce could be extended to Aleppo swiftly.

“We all hope that … in a few hours we can relaunch the cessation of hostilities. If we can do this, we will be back on the right track,” de Mistura said. If the truce were extended to Aleppo, peace talks could resume, he said.

Lavrov said, “The process of agreeing a ceasefire in Aleppo is being finished right now between Russian and American military personnel.”

He added that he hoped it could be announced in the near future, “maybe even in the coming hours.”

Posted by on May 4, 2016. Filed under World. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.