PHOTO: UN envoy Staffan de Mistura addresses the press on Thursday (Denis Balibouse/Reuters)



Special: Russia-Regime Airstrike Destroys Aleppo Hospital

UPDATE 1130 GMT: In the latest Russian-regime bombing, a hospital has been destroyed near Aleppo city, causing multiple casualties.

See Syria Special: Russia-Regime Airstrike Destroys Aleppo Hospital

More airstrikes on Aleppo are reported this morning. Nine people, including women and children, have been killed in the Bustan al-Qasr‬ neighborhood. Seven people died in Kallasa, and one person was killed and six injured in Sakhour.

A graphic video has been posted of wounded children being treated in a clinic.

Aftermath of an airstrike today:

State news agency SANA does not mention any airstrikes, but claims that “9 civilians were killed and scores were injured in terrorist rocket attacks and sniper shooting in Aleppo on Thursday”.

UN envoy Staffan de Mistura has appealed to US President Barack Obama and Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin to save the collapsed ceasefire and failing political talks over Syria’s five-year conflict.

Speaking early Thursday after the latest round of discussions in Geneva, de Mistura asked “for a U.S.-Russian urgent initiative at the highest level, because the legacy of both President Obama and President Putin is linked to the success of what has been a unique initiative which started very well. It needs to end very well.”

He urged the US and Russia to convene a Ministerial meeting of the International Syria Support Group (ISSG), which brokered the February 27 cessation of hostilities.

De Mistura concluded his meetings with the Assad delegation on Tuesday with no advance. President Assad had said before the resumption of discussions in mid-April that he would not accept a transitional governing authority, and the delegation repeated that it would not negotiate over Assad’s future.

The opposition-rebel High Negotiations Committee suspended formal involvement last week, citing the continued regime bombing, sieges, and detentions. It also reiterated that Assad must leave power.

Meanwhile, Russia and the Syrian Air Force have carried out almost a week of sustained bombing, mainly on and near opposition areas of Aleppo city. An estimated 150 people have been killed in the attacks.

Moscow had suspended aerial operations after the cessation of hostilities in late February, but it resumed following the recapture of territory south of Aleppo by rebels and the jihadists of Jabhat al-Nusra. The Syrian military and foreign allies, such as Iranian units and Hezbollah fighters, are also hoping that the Russian attacks will help cut the main routes into the opposition-held parts of Aleppo.

Meanwhile, Syrian State media has accused rebels of shelling regime-held areas in the city, killing 17 civilians and injuring almost 100 on Monday.

De Mistura said yesterday that the discussions had been “overshadowed by a substantial and indeed worrisome of cessation of hostilities”:

The perception is that it could collapse any time. How can you have substantial talks when you have only news about bombing and shelling? It’s something that even I find it difficult, can you imagine the Syrians?

But, despite the Assad delegation’s refusal to discuss the central issue of the President’s future, the envoy tried to find some optimism in the negotiations of the past two weeks:

We didn’t get into names of people…but actually how to change the current governance. And I must say that the concept of a new government and a political transition with a new constitution is quite a lot already in terms of preparing of what could be the next steps.

He insisted — without noting President Assad’s rejection of the concept — that “the transitional governance could include members of the present government and the opposition, independents and others”.

Video: ISIS Claims Destruction of 3 Turkish Tanks with Guided Missiles

The Amaq news agency, linked to the Islamic State, has put out a video claiming the destruction of three Turkish tanks with anti-tank guided missiles:

The Islamic State has stepped up cross-border rocket fire into southeastern Turkey, killing several people this year. Turkey has responded with artillery fire.

Last weekend, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said the US is positioning a multiple-rocket launcher system on the border to attack Islamic State positions if attacks continue.

Video: Kurdish YPG Militia Parades Bodies of 47 Slain Rebels

Footage of the Kurdish YPG militia parading the bodies of 47 Free Syrian Army fighters through the town of Afrin in northwest Syria:

The YPG has been fighting rebel factions in northern Aleppo Province in the last three months, seeking to claim opposition territory and possibly connect the Afrin canton with the Kobane and Cezire cantons in the northeast.

US Clarifies Its “Opposition Aleppo Under Jabhat al-Nusra Control” Statement

The US State Department has clarified last week’s erroneous statement by an American military spokesman in Baghdad that opposition areas of Aleppo are controlled by Jabhat al-Nusra.

Colonel Steve Warren appeared to give Russia and the Assad regime the pretext for their deadly bombing of Aleppo city when he said, “It’s primarily al-Nusra who holds Aleppo, and of course, al-Nusra is not part of the [February 27] cessation of hostilities.”

In sharp contrast to Warren’s assertion, there are no Jabhat al-Nusra fighters in Aleppo city.

US envoy Michael Ratney said in a statement, distributed in Arabic, that Aleppo is not under Nusra’s control, but that rebels must keep up efforts to disentangle from the jihadists.

The latter part of the statement echoes John Kerry’s signal last week, following the Warren statement, that the US would work with Russia to “separate” the rebels from Nusra.

Jaish al-Islam: Other Rebel Factions Attacked Us in East Ghouta Near Damascus

The leading rebel faction Jaish al-Islam says it has been attacked by other groups in the East Ghouta area near Damascus, with several casualties report.

Jaish al-Islam said it was attacked in several villages by Failaq al-Rahman and the al-Fustat Army. The Jaish al-Islam spokesman, Captain Islam Alloush, accused Failaq al-Sham of killing two fighters and three civilians in the initial attack on Zamalka. He said the group had put up false flags on their cars to make it look like Jaish al-Islam started the violence.

Sources in Jaish al-Islam add that the al-Fustat Army was created by Jabhat al-Nusra, after Nusra failed in an attempt to establish and lead a bloc in East Ghouta last year. The sources claim Failaq al-Rahman is also colluding with Nusra, and that dozens of Failaq al-Rahman members have defected and joined Jaish al-Islam.

One source says that Jabhat al-Nusra has only about 300 members in East Ghouta but is magnifying its influence through its involvement with Failaq al-Rahman.

The Unified Judiciary in East Ghouta has apparently sided with Jaish al-Islam, condemning an “alliance to fight Mujahedin”.

Trying to exploit the situation, the Syrian military has sent reinforcements into several areas around East Ghouta, according to the pro-opposite site Eldorar.