The Syrian government has pummeled opposition-held neighborhoods in the northern city of Aleppo in a four-day air assault, leveling apartment buildings, flooding hospitals with casualties and killing nearly 200 people. The unusually intense airstrikes are believed to be preparing an all-out ground offensive. Aleppo, Syria’s largest city, has been divided in half since mid-2012. (AP, 18 December)
Syrian President Bashar Assad could also be trying to strengthen his position on the ground five weeks prior to the start of Geneva II conference on Syrian conflict.
The airstrikes have overwhelmed Aleppo’s already strapped medical facilities, which are struggling to cope with the influx of casualties and are running out of drugs and medical supplies, Doctors Without Borders said.
The impact has been so devastating, in part, because of the government’s choice of weapon: helicopters that drop so-called barrel bombs containing hundreds of pounds of explosives and fuel, causing massive damage. (AP, 18 December)
More than 120,000 people have been killed, and nearly 9 million Syrians have been uprooted from their homes — some 40 percent of the country’s prewar population of 23 million. They include some 2.3 million who have fled to neighboring countries.
Photo credit: The rubble of houses that were destroyed by government airstrikes in Aleppo, Syria. Wednesday, December 18, 2013 (AP/Aleppo Media Center AMC)