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Syria war: Civilians become collateral damage in fierce fighting between rebels & regime

Rebel fighters from the Jaish al-Fatah (or Army of Conquest) brigades manoeuver a T-55 tank as they take part in a major assault on Syrian government forces West of Aleppo city Photograph: (AFP)

Aleppo, Aleppo Governorate, Syria Oct 31, 2016, 02.09 AM (IST)

Syria's Aleppo continues to be pounded two days after fierce fighting resumed between forces loyal to the Syrian regime and rebels backed by the West.

Civilians holed up in the war-torn city have been the collateral damage in the intense two-day bombardment, with 41 dead and almost 250 wounded, according to UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

The rebels have been accused of launching toxic gas attacks on regime-held parts of Aleppo in order to reach the 250,000 people besieged in the eastern side of the city since September.

The Syrian regime said the rebels fired shells containing chlorine gas in al-Hamdaniya, a neighbourhood held by the Syrian regime, in their attempt to capture the entire city. 

al-Hamdaniya, located in the western half of the city, is viewed by the rebels as key to getting closer to the eastern half of the city.

The rebels have staged their offensive on al-Hamdaniya neighbourhood from Dahiyet al-Assad, which is on the western rim of Aleppo. Around 1,500 rebels fighters have converged in that area to fight the forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

While the western half of Aleppo is governed by the Syrian regime, the eastern half is held by the rebels.

A pro-regime military source told AFP that the rebel assault was "massive and coordinated", but said it failed to breach break into any neighbourhoods beyond Dahiyet al-Assad.

"They're using Grad missiles and car bombs and are supported by foreign fighters in their ranks," he said.

'War crimes'

UN peace envoy to Syria Staffan de Mistura slammed the rebels' plan to launch gas attacks in the city, saying that use of "indiscriminate weapons" on civilian areas could amount to "war crimes". 

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said there were confirmed reports of suffocation among government fighters in two frontline areas shelled by rebels, but it did not know if chlorine gas was the cause.

Rebels' accusation

The rebels have also accused the regime forces of launching a chlorine gas attack on areas held by them.

They released videos purportedly showing residents suffering from breathing problems in the aftermath of the gas attack launched by the regime.

Aleppo has been the scene of gruesome battle since 2011. Close to 300,000 residents have been killed during the years-long civil war.

(WION with inputs from agencies)

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