At least 23 civilians have been killed in renewed government airstrikes on the contested city of Aleppo, Syrian activists say, as France and Britain’s Foreign Ministers raised the prospect of investigating Russia for war crimes, ahead of an emergency UN Security Council meeting about the spiraling violence in Syria.
Medical workers and local officials on Sunday reported airstrikes on neighbourhoods throughout Aleppo’s rebel-held eastern districts as an announced government offensive entered its fourth day.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported 23 civilians had been killed by the evening (local time) and said it expects the toll to rise.
Ibrahim Alhaj of the Syrian Civil Defense search and rescue outfit said hospitals and rescuers have documented the deaths of 43 people so far.
Hospitals are overwhelmed with casualties and medical workers are expecting many of the wounded to die from a lack of treatment, according to Mohammad Zein Khandaqani, a member of the Medical Council.
“I’ve never seen so many people dying in once place,” he said from a hospital in the city. “It’s terrifying today. In less than one hour the Russian planes have killed more than 50 people and injured more than 200.”
The Observatory said earlier in the day that 213 civilians have been killed by airstrikes and shelling in Aleppo since a US-Russian brokered cease-fire collapsed on Monday evening.
At the UN, British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said Russia should be investigated for war crimes following an attack on a Syrian aid convoy that claimed 20 lives, last Monday.
Johnson said that Russia’s air force may have deliberately targeted the civilian convoy on September 19.
Russia denies involvement and instead suggests Syrian rebels or a US drone were responsible.
France’s Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault said Russia and Iran will be guilty of war crimes if they don’t pressure Syrian President Bashar Assad to stop escalating violence.
Ayrault said an emergency United Nations Security Council meeting Sunday is a “moment of truth” for the UN
The meeting was requested by the United States, Britain, and France, as pro-government forces extend their bombardment of the contested city of Aleppo. They are widely believed to be accompanied by Russian air strikes.
The UN says the attack could amount to a war crime if proven deliberate, though it has not assigned responsibility yet.
Rebels meanwhile shelled Masyaf, a government stronghold near the central city of Hama, for the second day in a row, according to the Observatory.
Masyaf is home to a large number of Alawites, members of President Bashar Assad’s sect. Assad has rallied Syria’s minorities behind his government behind fears of the Sunni-dominated rebellion.
The US, Britain, and France are aligned on the Security Council against Russia and China, which back Assad in the country’s protracted war, now in its sixth year.
But a broad coalition of Syrian rebels denounced international negotiations for peace as “meaningless,” earlier on Sunday.
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