38 civilians killed in rebel fire on government-held part of Syria's Aleppo

A general view shows the damaged Carlton Hotel, controlled by forces loyal to Syria's President Bashar al-Assad, as seen from a rebel-held area of Aleppo. Photograph:( Reuters )

Reuters Beirut, Lebanon Jul 09, 2016, 01.18 PM (IST)

Rebel shelling into government-held parts of Syria's second city, Aleppo, killed at least 38 civilians today, a war monitor said, as Syrian government forces continued their offensive to completely encircle rebel-held parts of the city.

Those killed included 14 children and 13 women, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights conflict monitor said.

Syrian government and allied forces advanced this week towards the only route into the opposition half of the city, the Castello Road.

The Syrian military said it extended a 72-hour nationwide ceasefire that expired on Friday, July 8, for another 72 hours, state media reported today.

The military high command said in a statement reported by state media that "a regime of calm will be extended for a period of 72 hours from one o'clock on July 9."

Syrian forces are now 500-1000 metres away from the road, sources say, bringing the road within firing range and trapping between 250,000 and 300,000 people in opposition-held parts of Aleppo.

Aleppo, Syria's largest city before the war when it had more than 2 million people, has been divided for years into rebel and government sectors. Controlling all of it has been one of President Bashar al-Assad's biggest goals.

Heavy aerial and artillery bombardment had at times made the Castello Road impassable. But this week's advance brings government forces the closest so far to the road, making it even easier to hit.

The Observatory said air strikes and heavy shelling also hit rebel-held parts of Aleppo, killing at least five people.

Syrian state media put today's death toll from rebel-fire in Aleppo at about 40, with more than 300 injured.