PHOTO: Men carry victim of Russian-regime bombing of Shaar district of Aleppo on Tuesday
UPDATE 1800 GMT: Asked by Al Jazeera English’s James Bays if the regime bombed two hospitals in east Aleppo today, UN Ambassador Bashar al-Ja’afari laughs:
Assad's man at the UN laughing about bombed hospitals in Aleppo – that's how concerned he is about Syrian civilians pic.twitter.com/QBIwTgf1dR
— kristyan benedict (@KreaseChan) September 28, 2016
UPDATE 1530 GMT: US Secretary of State John Kerry has threatened to cut off all contacts with Russia over Syria, including the three-year political process alongside Moscow, unless Russian and regime attacks on Aleppo end.
The State Department said Kerry issued the ultimatum in a telephone call to Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.
Spokesman John Kirby said that Kerry expressed grave concern over attacks on hospitals, water supplies, and other civilian infrastructure, and that he told Lavrov that the US holds Russia responsible for the use of incendiary and bunker-buster bombs in an urban area.
After the escalation of Russian-regime attacks last week, including strikes on a UN aid convoy, Kerry called for the suspension of Russian and regime military flights over areas of humanitarian need. However, the regime and Lavrov immediately rejected the initiative, and the assault on Aleppo further escalated.
The US Ambassador to the UN, Samantha Power, and British and French colleagues called the Russian attacks “barbarism”. Kremlin spokesman Dmitri Peskov said the remarks were “inappropriate”.
France’s Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault told legislators said that he will table a UN Security Council resolution for a ceasefire, and that any country that opposed it would be deemed complicit in war crimes.
Ayrault accused the Assad regime, backed by Russia and Iran, of carrying out an “all-out war” on its people.
“We will not let Aleppo become the Guernica of the 21st century,” Ayrault said, referring to Germany’s indiscriminate bombing in 1937 of civilians in the Basque town during the Spanish Civil War.
A senior French diplomatic source said Paris had prepared a text that it wanted to discuss with Britain and the US before presenting it to the Russians.
UPDATE 1520 GMT: Activists say about 20 people have been killed in an airstrike near a bakery in eastern Aleppo city.
UPDATE 0600 GMT: A journalist, citing the Syrian American Medical Society, and activists claim that Russian-regime bombing this morning has halted services at the two largest hospitals in opposition-held Aleppo.
Months of pro-Assad airstrikes had already reduced eastern Aleppo city to three functioning hospitals and destroyed many other medical facilities, drug warehouses, and blood banks.
Activists say there are now only 35 doctors for 250,000 residents.
ORIGINAL ENTRY: The Syrian military claims that it has taken territory near Aleppo’s Old City in a ground offensive inside Syria’s largest city, following more than a week of intense bombing by Russian and regime air forces.
An army spokesman declared that a “swift operation” had taken the al-Farafira district, northwest of the 12th-century Aleppo Citadel. He claimed that a rebel tunnel had been exposed and destroyed in the al-Izaa neighborhood.
The commander of a pro-Assad Iraqi militia said a large force, including the paramilitary Tiger Forces, had moblized in armored vehicles.
Rebels denied any advance by regime forces, posting video of their fighters near the Citadel:
— مركز حلب الإعلامي (@AleppoAMC) September 28, 2016
Iran and Hezbollah Promise “A Forceful Confrontation”
The Assad regime’s allies proclaimed an imminent battle for the future of Aleppo, which has been divided since July 2012, following the re-imposition of a siege on opposition areas last month.
“There are no prospects for political solutions….The final word is for the battlefield,” Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah wrote.
The head of Iran’s National Security Council, Ali Shamkhani, said Aleppo’s fate would be determined “through a forceful confrontation”.
Russian-regime bombing of opposition areas continued on Tuesday, although the death toll was lower than that of the weekend, when almost 100 people were killed per day.
The Local Coordination Committees documented 32 deaths, most of them in the Shaar district.
Since September 19, when Russian and Syrian warplanes renewed operations with an attack on a UN aid convoy, more than 500 people have been killed in and near Aleppo.
Aftermath of bombing of the Shaar area:
Video: Rebels and Jihadists Capture Another Village in Northern Hama Province
Rebels have continued their advance in northern Hama Province with the capture of Shaatha village:
The takeover is significant because Jabhat Fatah al-Sham, formerly Jabhat al-Nusra, has joined the attacking rebel forces.
In past five days, rebels have renewed their march across northern Hama, beginning with the capture of the fortified village of Ma’an and then the move into five others.
Footage from the village of Tulaysiya:
The offensive began in late August across northern Hama, taking four towns and a series of villages to close within 10 km (6 miles) of Hama city.
Pro-regime outlets are spreading the unsupported claim that rebels and jihadists have used “chlorine gas” on the Syrian military.
Last week, Syria’s UN Ambassador Bashar al-Ja’afari set up the claim with the assertion that rebels will disguise themselves in Syrian military uniforms to carry out chemical attacks.