BEIRUT (AP) — Hundreds of people in Syria’s Aleppo have fled to areas under government control, a monitoring group said Sunday, as pro-government forces press on with an assault that has laid waste to the city’s opposition neighborhoods.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said around 400 evacuees sought refuge in the Masaken Hanano neighborhood, captured by pro-government forces Saturday, and that an additional 30 families fled to Sheikh Maqsoud, which is under Kurdish control.
Syrian state media reported that hundreds of families had vacated areas under rebel control.
Syrian state TV broadcast a video Saturday showing a teary reunion between a soldier and his family after nearly five years apart, according to the report. It said the family had been trapped in Masaken Hanano.
The Lebanese Al-Manar TV channel reported from the neighborhood Sunday morning, showing workers and soldiers clearing debris against a backdrop of bombed-out buildings on both sides of a wide avenue. Al-Manar is operated by Hezbollah, the Lebanese militant group aligned with the Syrian government.
Aleppo used to be Syria’s largest city and commerce capital before its neighborhoods were devastated by the country’s more than five-year-long civil war.
An estimated 275,000 people are trapped in wretched conditions in the city’s rebel-held eastern districts since the government sealed its siege of the enclave in late August. Food supplies are running perilously low, the U.N. warned Thursday, and a relentless air assault by government forces has damaged or destroyed every hospital in the area.
The U.N.’s child agency warned Sunday that nearly 500,000 children were now living under siege in Syria, cut off from food and medical aid, mostly in areas under government control. That figure has doubled in less than a year.
Many are now spending their days underground, as hospitals, schools and homes remain vulnerable to aerial bombardment.
“Children are being killed and injured, too afraid to go to school or even play, surviving with little food and hardly any medicine,” said UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake. “This is no way to live — and too many are dying.”
Activists also reported Sunday tens of civilian casualties from a presumed government or Russian airstrike on a village outside Aleppo.
The Local Coordination Committees activist network in Syria reported 15 civilians killed in a Russian airstrike on the village of Anjara, controlled by the opposition in the western Aleppo countryside, and tens of others wounded. Activists usually identify planes by their silhouettes and home base.
The Britain-based Observatory said the strike was accompanied by raids on other opposition-held villages in the Aleppo countryside.
Meanwhile, Turkey’s state-run Anadolu news agency reported Sunday that the Islamic State group used chemical weapons against Turkish-backed Syrian opposition fighters in northern Syria, wounding 22. The report cited a statement by the chief of general staff’s office. The report could not be immediately verified independently.