Thousands of Syrians flee city after Russian airstrikes
Tens of thousands of Syrians are being forced out of the city of Aleppo towards the Turkish border, after intense Russian airstrikes on Friday.
Aid workers have said they fear the city, which once was home to two million people, could soon fall under a full government siege.
For the people of Aleppo, this has been one of the most intense bombardments of the five-year war. Opposition forces in northern Syria say they are losing their grip on the city, whilst forces loyal to Syrian leader, Bashar al-Assad are in control of most of the countryside to the north.
Tens of thousands of Syrians fled an intensifying Russian assault around the region on Friday, and aid workers said they feared the city which once held two million people could soon fall under a full government siege.
President Bashar al-Assad’s forces and their allies are making a new bid to achieve victory on the battlefield after Russia’s involvement ended months of stalemate.
Aleppo would be the biggest strategic win in years for Assad’s government. The bloody conflict has killed at least 250,000 people and displaced 11 million from their homes.
Video footage showed thousands of people, mostly women, children and the elderly, congregating at the Bab al-Salam border crossing.
Men carried luggage on top of their heads, and the elderly and infirm were using wheelchairs.
Some women sat on the side of the road with their babies and waited to be allowed into Turkey.
David Evans, Middle East programme director for the US aid agency ‘Mercy Corps’ said: “It feels like a siege of Aleppo is about to begin.”
Hassan Haj Ali, head of Liwa Suqour al-Jabal, a group that fights under the umbrella of the Free Syrian Army, told Reuters: “The Russian [air] cover continues night and day, there were more than 250 air strikes on this area in one day.
“The regime is now trying to expand the area it has taken control of … Now the northern countryside (of Aleppo) is totally encircled, and the humanitarian situation is very difficult.”
At least 3,000 Russian service personnel are operating in support of the government in Damascus. They include special force ‘spetsnaz’ troops aiding Hizbollah and Syrian army units on the front lines.