ALEPPO, Syria -- Russian and Syrian warplanes and artillery were pounding opposition held areas again Thursday morning, some in the countryside around the, others close to the center of the city – once Syria’s most populous.
Activists say white phosphorus was dropped -- a controversial weapon which keeps burning with ferocious heat after it lands, and is illegal to use in situations where many civilians are present -- but there’s no way to confirm the claim.
After last week’s shaky cease-fire, CBS News correspondent Elizabeth Palmer says the Syrian civil war is on again, and with a vengeance.
The daily casualty count had dropped to almost zero, but is now climbing again fast. The opposition reports 53 people were killed in the last 24 hours of bombing; some opposition fighters, but also some woman and children.
In a bid to halt the carnage, Secretary of State John Kerry has proposed that all warplanes and helicopters – including Russia’s and Syria’s -- stop flying over the key aid supply routes in the battle zones.
Russia, meanwhile, has suggested a possible three-day halt to the fighting to try and get last-week’s cease-fire back on track.
President Bashar Assad, meanwhile, has rejected U.S. accusations that Syrian or Russian planes struck an aid convoy in Aleppo or that his troops were preventing food from entering the city’s rebel-held eastern neighborhoods, blaming the U.S. for the collapse of the cease-fire many had hoped would bring relief to the war-ravaged country.
In an interview with The Associated Press in Damascus, Assad also said deadly U.S. airstrikes on Syrian troops last week were intentional, dismissing American officials’ statements that they were an accident. Assad said the U.S. lacked “the will” to join forces with Russia in fighting extremists.
Assad, who inherited power from his father and is now in his 16th year in office, cut a confident figure during the interview -- a sign of how his rule, which once seemed threatened by the rebellion, has been solidified by his forces’ military advances and by the air campaign of his ally Russia, which turned the tables on the battlefield last year.
He said his enemies alone were to blame for nearly six years of devastation across Syria, and while acknowledging some mistakes, he repeatedly denied any excesses by his troops. He said the war was only likely to “drag on” because of continued external support for his opponents
“When you have many external factors that you don’t control, it’s going to drag on and no one in this world can tell you when” the war will end, he said, insisting Syrians who fled the country could return within a few months if the U.S., Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Qatar stopped backing insurgents.