Aleppo war ignited, transitory calm returns

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Beirut—The heaviest bombardment in weeks hit Syria’s rebel-held eastern Aleppo on Tuesday morning while warplanes were visible in the sky, a civil defense official said.
“It’s all air strikes and parachute bombs. Today, the bombing is violent… There hasn’t been this kind of attack in more than 15 days,” said Ibrahim Abu al-Laith.
Three hospitals in Aleppo have been hit by air raids in the past 24 hours, leaving medical staff and patients wounded, a monitor said.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said it could not immediately determine whether the strikes in Aleppo had been carried out by Russian or Syrian government aircraft.
One hospital in the village of Awijel in the west of the province was hit during the night. Among the wounded were patients who had been moved there after a hospital in the nearby village of Kafr Naha was hit on Monday, the Britain-based monitoring group said.
A third hospital — in the town of Atareb — was hit five times in the early hours of Monday, the group added.
The strikes destroyed operating rooms and the hospital pharmacy, damaged ambulances and wounded medical staff. The hospitals in Atareb and Kafr Naha have both been hit by previous air strikes. Human rights groups have accused the Syrian government and its ally Russia of deliberately targeting medical facilities in rebel-held areas, a claim both Damascus and Moscow deny.
In recent months, the government has been engaged in a major offensive aimed at recapturing rebel-held areas of Aleppo.
Some of the main hospitals in the city’s eastern sector have been destroyed by the accompanying air and artillery bombardment. Food production in Syria ‘at all-time low’
Food production has dropped to an all-time low in Syria where civilians are struggling through their sixth winter in a war zone, UN agencies said on Tuesday.
Many farmers have had to abandon their land, unable to afford the soaring cost of seeds, fertilizers and tractor fuel, the Food and Agriculture Organization and the World Food Programme said.
Wheat output – vital for making flat loaves of bread, a staple of the Syrian diet – dropped from an average 3.4 million metric tonnes harvested before the war began in 2011 to 1.5 million this year, they said in a joint statement.
The area planted for cereals in the 2015-16 cropping season is the “smallest ever”, they added, citing field visits and surveys that also showed record low production of barley.
“Food production in Syria has hit a record low due to fighting and insecurity but also weather conditions,” World Food Programme spokeswoman Bettina Luescher told a news briefing in Geneva.
Food shortages are particularly worrying in east Aleppo, the rebel-held part of the city besieged by government forces where the UN says 250,000-275,000 civilians still live.
“The last food rations provided by the UN have been given out (in east Aleppo). It is very hard to say how people will be coping there. Of course it is a very different situation in the capital where food is available at the markets and people can buy things,” Luescher said.
Before the war, Syria was an exporter of livestock. “Now herds and flocks have shrunk, there are 30 percent fewer cattle, 40 percent fewer sheep and goats and a staggering 60 percent less poultry which of course is the most affordable source of animal protein,” Luescher said.
More than 7 million people in Syria are classified as “food insecure”, meaning they are not always sure where their next meal is coming from, she added. The World Food Programme is distributing rations to more than 4 million people in Syria each month.—Agencies

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