Russia rains 'phosphorus bombs' on Aleppo town despite truce

Russia rains 'phosphorus bombs' on Aleppo town despite truce
Hours after Islamist-dominated rebel factions captured Khan Touman, the Syrian regime and its Russian ally have responded with 'unrelenting' bombing of the strategic town, reportedly using white phosphorus munitions
3 min read
07 May, 2016
Russia's bombing of a refugee camp on Thursday may amount to a war crime [Anadolu]
Russian military aircraft reportedly targeted Khan Touman with phosphorus bombs on Saturday morning, just hours after Syrian rebels captured the strategic Aleppo province town and surrounding areas.

"Khan Touma came under unrelenting shelling since midnight using all types of heavy munitions, in conjunction with strikes carried out by Russian warplanes against the town and Al-Eis using cluster and phosphorus bombs," Zakaria Ibrahim, a local activist, told The New Arab.

Rebel groups had earlier captured Khan Touman following heavy battles with regime forces that killed at least 73, including 30 regime troops, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

Mainly Islamist and jihadist rebel groups including Ahrar al-Sham and al-Qaeda-affiliate the Nusra Front seized the town on the highway between Damascus and Aleppo after less than 24 hours of fighting.

Pro-government troops had previously driven rebels out in December.

Aleppo ceasefire extended

The fresh bombing comes as a temporary truce in the Syrian battleground city of Aleppo was extended for 72 hours from 00:01 on Saturday.

The extended pause in fighting in Aleppo city follows mounting international condemnation over deadly airstrikes on a camp for displaced people in northern Syria, which the government and its Russian ally have denied responsibility for.

UN officials have said the incident could amount to a war crime.
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Russia's defence ministry said the fragile ceasefire had been extended "in order to prevent the situation from worsening" just minutes before the initial 48-hour truce for the city was due to expire.

"The regime of silence in the province of Latakia and in the city of Aleppo has been extended from 00:01 (local time) on May 7 (2200 GMT Friday) for 72 hours," the defence ministry said in a statement.

The United States - which has been working with Moscow to pressure Damascus to revive a landmark nationwide ceasefire agreed in February - also confirmed the extension.

"While we welcome this recent extension, our goal is to get to a point where we no longer have to count the hours and that the cessation of hostilities is fully respected across Syria," said State Department spokesman John Kirby.

Calm returned to the streets of Aleppo city after the ceasefire first came into force at midnight on Thursday, giving residents some respite from two weeks of fighting that killed more than 280 civilians.

The international community hopes that a de-escalation in fighting can galvanise faltering peace talks to end the war, which is now in its sixth year, having killed more than 270,000 people and displaced millions.

Agencies contributed to this report.