Syrian airstrikes on Aleppo amid intense clashes

Syrian rebels launched a major assault aimed at breaking a months-long siege of opposition-held districts of Aleppo, as regime ally Russian Federation held off on renewed air strikes.

The request was made after Syrian opposition fighters launched an assault against the government-held western part of the city, firing rockets and detonating vehicle bombs in a counter assault.

Aleppo, Syria's second largest city, has been divided between government forces in the west and the militants in the east since 2012.

The barrage is part of a major assault by rebels and allied jihadists to break a three-month government siege of Aleppo's eastern half, where more than 250,000 people still live.

Auto bombs and rocket fire shook Aleppo on Saturday as rebels battled to break a suffocating siege by the Syrian regime, accused by Washington of using starvation as a "weapon of war".

Among those killed over the two-day period were 14 children, said the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

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The Russian military said on Friday it had asked President Vladimir Putin for authorisation to resume the raids. The president's spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, said that Putin considers it "inadvisable to resume airstrikes on Aleppo", and wants to have humanitarian corridors out of Aleppo's rebel-held districts stay open both for rebels and civilians to leave the city.

Despite Russian air support, the Syrian regime has had limited success in its attempts to seize the whole of Aleppo.

"Those who argue that this is meant to relieve the siege of eastern Aleppo should be reminded that nothing justifies the use of disproportionate and indiscriminate weapons, including heavy ones, on civilian areas and it could amount to war crimes", De Mistura said.

Last week, Russia implemented a three-day "humanitarian pause" in the airstrikes by Russian and Syrian air forces.

But few did so, and a United Nations plan to evacuate the wounded failed because security could not be guaranteed.

Ibrahim al-Haj, a member of the first responders team the Syrian Civil Defense that operates in rebel-held Aleppo, said airstrikes Sunday on districts near the front line caused material damage.

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Islamist rebel group Fateh al-Sham said they had captured Dahiyet al-Assad, a residential district of about a square kilometer.

A Syrian military official, speaking on condition of anonymity in line with regulations, says the government is reinforcing its positions in and around the city to repel rebel advances.

An AFP correspondent in east Aleppo said the assault had boosted morale there, with mosques broadcasting "God is greatest" from loudspeakers. Rebels also targeted a military airbase.

More than 1,500 fighters from the provinces of Aleppo and Idlib to the west were attacking government-controlled districts of the city along a front stretching for 15 kilometres (nine miles), it said.

Chris Doyle, from the Council for Arab-British Understanding, a London-based advocacy group, said the failure to end the siege of Aleppo has unified the disparate rebel groups, with hard-line fighters taking the lead.

"They're using Grad missiles and auto bombs and are supported by foreign fighters in their ranks", he said. Rebels denied that, and said government forces had fired poison gas on another frontline.

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The European Union said late Friday its top diplomat Federica Mogherini was heading to Iran and Saudi Arabia for talks on the five-year war.

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