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Syria Airstrikes Kill 85 People in Aleppo Amid Diplomatic Row

Syrian forces pounded rebel-held eastern Aleppo on Sunday, killing at least 85 people and wounding more than 300 others, an activist group reported. The bombardment destroyed residential centers, overwhelmed hospitals and angered diplomats meeting at the United Nations.

A Syrian man walks past a bus set ablaze following a reported air strike in Aleppo on Sept. 25, 2016.(Credit: Ameer Alhalbi/AFP/Getty Images)

A Syrian man walks past a bus set ablaze following a reported air strike in Aleppo on Sept. 25, 2016.(Credit: Ameer Alhalbi/AFP/Getty Images)

“Everyone in Aleppo is depressed,” an activist on the ground told CNN.

“They don’t know what they have done to become targets for warplanes. Fear is clear in the eyes of anyone you see walking the streets of Aleppo. Yesterday I saw a woman walking on the street and crying , no clear reason, just crying.”

Hospitals overwhelmed

Hundreds of airstrikes have pummeled the city, home to more than 250,000 people, since the Syrian government, backed by Russia, announced a renewed, “comprehensive” offensive Thursday following the collapse of a short-lived ceasefire.

Sunday’s death toll marked an increase in casualties, according to the Aleppo Media Center (AMC), an opposition-affiliated group of activists that works to document the conflict.

Activists say rescue operations are difficult in Aleppo because of the constant presence of jets in the sky, and that hospitals are facing severe shortages of medicine, blood and supplies.

The activist who recounted Aleppo residents’ fears said that in one hospital, where a fellow activist was being treated, 40 people lay strewn on the floor because there were no beds.

Wounded people are dying because health services are overstretched and providers don’t have the ability or capacity to treat them, the activist said. Due to a lack of supplies, hospitals are performing amputations to keep some people alive.

Only 20 doctors remain in eastern Aleppo, the activist added.

Syria crisis

The renewed attacks, which include barrel bombs, come as the UN Security Council held a crisis meeting Sunday to discuss the Syrian government’s offensive on Aleppo. At the meeting, diplomats exchanged fiery words,

The U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations accused Russia of engaging in barbarism in Syria.

“What Russia is sponsoring and doing is not counterterrorism, it is barbarism,” Samantha Power told the Security Council.

“Instead of pursuing peace, Russia and Assad make war. Instead of helping get life-saving aid to civilians, Russia and Assad are bombing the humanitarian convoys, hospitals and first responders who are trying desperately to keep people alive,” Power said.

Russian Ambassador to the UN Vitaly Churkin said the U.S.-led coalition’s support for rebels was hampering humanitarian efforts.

“The humanitarian situation in Aleppo could have been normalized in August but that was not done, it was not allowed because the armed groups prevented that,” he said.

The United States, Britain and France requested the session in the wake of the regime’s military push to retake rebel-held parts of eastern Aleppo.

Syria’s ambassador to the United Nations, Bashar Jaafari, told the Security Council that his government plans to retake all of the territory lost to rebels, including the city of Aleppo.

UK Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said Sunday that Russia is guilty of protracting the Syrian war and making it “far more hideous.”

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon also said that the Syrian government’s use of airstrikes, incendiary weapons and bunker-buster bombs in densely populated areas may amount to war crimes.

Syrian government troops and supporting militia on Saturday made their first major ground advance of the assault on Aleppo, seizing control of the Handarat Palestinian refugee camp on the city’s northeastern outskirts, while warplanes bombarded the east, according to the state-run Syrian Arab News Agency.

Rebels then launched a counter offensive to try to retake the area, according to the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

Syria’s military declared the ceasefire over on Monday, after a strike by US-led coalition warplanes on a Syrian army post killed dozens of troops. The U.S. military did not dispute the strike, but characterized it as “unintentional” and relayed its “regret” to Syria through Russia, saying the intended target had been ISIS.

Shortly after the ceasefire ended, a UN-Syrian Arab Red Crescent aid convoy was hit in an airstrike, killing about 20 people. US officials blamed Russia, while Moscow denied that Russian or Syrian warplanes were responsible.