BEIRUT (AP) — A wave of airstrikes and shelling killed more than 60 people in less than 24 hours in the northern Syrian city of Aleppo, monitors and activists said Thursday.
The Syrian opposition accused the government in Damascus and its ally Russia of destroying a tenuous cease-fire by bombing civilians and hospitals in northern Syria.
But the Russian Defense Ministry denied that its warplanes bombed a hospital in the northern Syrian city of Aleppo.
Ministry spokesman Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov said in a statement Thursday that Russian aircraft have flown no missions in the Aleppo region in the past several days.
The Russian military says its warplanes in Syria do not hit opposition forces that are observing the cease-fire and that have informed either the Russian or U.S. military of their location.
Aleppo is now one of the main battlegrounds of Syria's devastating civil war, with a cease-fire that has collapsed and peace talks in Geneva stalled.
At least 27 people died as a hospital supported by Doctors Without Borders and the International Committee for the Red Cross and nearby buildings were hit overnight in the rebel-held part of Aleppo.
The U.N. envoy for Syria appealed early Thursday to the United States and Russia to help revive the peace talks and a cease-fire, which he said "hangs by a thread."
However, the violence only escalated. New airstrikes Thursday in residential areas in the rebel-held part of thecity killed at least 20 while state media reported that at least 1,000 mortars and rockets were fired at government-held areas of Aleppo, killing at least 14 civilians.
The chief Syrian opposition negotiator Mohammed Alloush blamed the government of President Bashar Assad for the violence. He told The Associated Press that it shows "the environment is not conducive to any political action." He denounced the intensive bombing as an attempt by Assad's government to drive the residents ofAleppo out, labelling it "a crime of ethnic and sectarian cleansing."
About 200 civilians have been killed in the past week in Syria, nearly half of them around Aleppo. There has also been shelling in Damascus, along with a car bombing — both rarities for the capital. The ICRC said the fighting, including the destruction in airstrikes overnight of a key hospital in Aleppo, is putting millions at grave risk.
With peace talks in Geneva completely deadlocked, Syrians are regarding the escalating bloodshed with dread, fearing that Aleppo is likely to be the focus of the next, more vicious, phase of the war.
Rebel commanders said government forces have been mobilizing soldiers, equipment and ammunition in preparation for a military action in Aleppo.
The well-known al-Quds field hospital supported by MSF and ICRC and located in the rebel-held district of Sukkari was hit shortly before midnight Wednesday, according to opposition activists and rescue workers. Six hospital staff and three children were among the 27 who died there.
The hospital has been one of the main medical centers operating in Aleppo since the city became deeply divided in 2012.
Dating back to the 1990s, the hospital was renamed after the area came under rebel control to carry the name of one of the uprising's early victims, Basel Aslan, who was detained and tortured to death, said civil defense volunteer Ibrahim Alhaj. It received aid and assistance from various foreign groups, as well as a volunteer medic from the United States, according to its Facebook page.