Hospital hit in Aleppo air strike

Aftermath of air strike in rebel-held Shaar district of Aleppo, Syria (8 June 2016)Image copyright

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The northern city of Aleppo has seen an increase in violence in the past 48 hours

At least 15 people are reported to have been killed and dozens wounded in a series of air strikes on rebel-held areas in the Syrian city of Aleppo.

One of the strikes hit near the Bayan hospital in the eastern Shaar district, activists and a monitoring group said.

Video footage, purportedly of the aftermath, showed bodies being pulled from burning and destroyed buildings.

It was not clear who was responsible, but government forces are seeking to regain control of the divided city.

In a defiant speech on Tuesday, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad promised to retake “every inch” of the country from his opponents.

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Bashar al-Assad said he was determined to continue Syria’s “war against terrorism”

Aleppo, he said, would be “the graveyard where the hopes and dreams” of Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan – a key backer of the rebels – would be “buried”.

The speech to Syria’s newly-elected parliament was Mr Assad’s first major address since UN-brokered indirect peace talks in Geneva broke down in April.

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Aleppo, once Syria’s commercial and industrial hub, has been divided since 2012, with the government controlling the western half and rebel factions holding the east.

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Bayan hospital said a member of staff had been wounded in Wednesday’s air strike

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A truce brokered by Russia and the US in February has been repeatedly violated in Aleppo

But in recent months, government forces backed by Russian air strikes have almost encircled the rebel-held areas and cut off one of the rebels’ two routes to Turkey.

The battle for the city led to the collapse of a cessation of hostilities negotiated by Russia and the US, which supports the opposition, at the end of February.

The Local Co-ordination Committees (LCC), an opposition activist network, reported that Tuesday’s air strikes had resulted in multiple casualties in the Maadi, Haidariya and Shaar districts.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a UK-based monitoring group, said children were among at least 10 people killed when the Bayan hospital was hit.

The Syria Civil Defence, whose volunteer search and rescue workers are known as the White Helmets, said 15 civilians were killed in Shaar and that the hospital was hit by two suspected barrel bombs.

The government has denied that its forces drop barrel bombs – oil barrels, fuel tanks or gas cylinders packed with explosives, fuel, and metal fragments – and other unguided weapons, but their use has been widely documented.

Media captionBBC exclusive: Aftermath of Aleppo air strikes

The Independent Doctors Association, which describes itself as a cross-border Syrian humanitarian organisation, said an air strike had hit its children’s hospital in Aleppo, destroying one floor.

Almost 740 medical workers have been killed in more than 360 attacks on hospitals and other medical facilities since the uprising against Mr Assad began five years ago, according to Physicians for Human Rights.

In April, an air strike blamed on government forces destroyed a hospital in Aleppo, killing at least 50 people including one of the city’s last remaining paediatricians.

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Fighters from the Syrian Democratic Forces have surrounded IS-held Manbij on three sides

In a separate development, Syrian rebel forces recaptured several villages from the jihadist group Islamic State (IS) north of Aleppo, the Syrian Observatory reported.

IS militants seized the villages between the rebel-held towns of Marea and Azaz last month, cutting off a supply line to Turkey and forcing thousands of civilians to flee.

But on Wednesday morning, the militants reportedly withdrew to reinforce frontlines around the IS-held towns of Tabqa and Manbij, where government and US-backed Kurdish forces have launched offensives.

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