BEIRUT (AP) — Airstrikes on a rebel-held neighborhood in the divided Syrian city of Aleppo on Monday killed at least 13 people, including five children, opposition activists said while Syria’s state media claimed that dozens of rebels were killed and wounded in fighting on the southern edges of the city, Syria’s largest.
The eastern parts of Aleppo, which remain in rebel hands, have been subjected in recent weeks to the worst aerial attacks in years. The airstrikes have claimed hundreds of lives, wounded many others and demolished entire buildings. Opposition activists have blamed Russian and Syrian government warplanes for the strikes.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Monday’s airstrikes hit in the Marjeh neighborhood. The Aleppo Media Center, an activist collective, said those killed included 11 people with the same family name of Qabs whose ages range between a month-and-a-half-old baby girl and a 25-year-old man.
Monday’s airstrikes coincided with the launch in neighboring Iraq of a major operation by Iraqi and Kurdish forces, backed by the U.S.-led coalition, to retake the city of Mosul from the Islamic State group. There have been concerns that the government in Damascus could use the timing of the Mosul offensive to press its onslaught in Aleppo while world attention is diverted to the events next door.
Also Monday, Syrian state media claimed that 49 rebels were killed and wounded in fighting in the neighborhoods of Sheikh Saeed and Shurfa on the southern edges of Aleppo, Syria’s largest city.
The United States and Britain on Sunday acknowledged the Western world’s weak support for any military action against Syria’s government as they seek ways to pressure Syrian President Bashar Assad and his chief backer, Russia, to halt the deadly Aleppo offensive.
After a meeting of 11 governments opposing Assad’s rule, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson each insisted that all options were on the table. But their stark explanations about the danger of resorting to military force appeared to rule out such a move.
The government in Damascus, meanwhile, appears to be trying to improve relations with Egypt, the Arab world’s most populous nation, following the first public meeting between Egyptian and Syrian security chiefs.
A top aide of Assad visited Cairo on Sunday to coordinate with Egypt in the fight against “terrorism” in the region, SANA said. The agency reported that Maj. Gen. Ali Mamlouk, head of the National Security Bureau, led the delegation.
SANA said the Syrians met with top intelligence officials, including deputy chief of Egypt’s intelligence agency. It said both sides agreed on “coordinating political standpoints” and strengthening the “cooperation in fighting terrorism.” Egypt’s pro-government Sada al-Balad and other news websites reported on Sunday that six Syrians arrived on a private jet from Damascus.
Earlier this month, Egypt voted for rival French and Russian draft resolutions on Syria at the U.N. Security Council, arguing that both called for a truce and for aid for besieged Syrians in the rebel-held areas of the northern city of Aleppo.
The move angered Egypt’s major financier Saudi Arabia, which supports rebels fighting against Assad’s Moscow-backed government.
Egypt and Syria are both fighting extremists, including members of the Islamic State group. Both countries also have bad relations with Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.