Kerry: Aleppo could be bombed ‘into smithereens’


The besieged Syrian city of Aleppo is at risk of being bombed “into smithereens” by Russia if a new cease-fire isn’t agreed to, Secretary of State John Kerry said Monday.

In his remarks in London, Kerry laid Aleppo’s future squarely at the feet of Moscow.

{mosads}“We will see whether Russia has a greater desire [than] to bomb Aleppo into smithereens claiming they’re going after terrorists, when in fact there are oppositionists there that are prepared to live by the cease-fire,” he said.

“This will determine to some degree where we go in Syria in the longer term.”

In early October, the United States cut off bilateral talks with Russia about Syria after the collapse of a cease-fire. But the two countries are still engaged in talks through multilateral efforts.

“We have a proposal that’s been going back and forth,” Kerry said of the multilateral talks.

He also pledged to continue working on a cease-fire up to the very end of the Obama administration.

“I remain the eternal optimist and hopeful that we can still try to push to that somewhere in these next couple of months — we have two and a half months left in this administration — and we’re going to work to the last moment to try to do that,” he said.

Kerry’s comments come as opposition fighters engage in a counteroffensive launched Friday to try to break the regime’s siege on Aleppo.

The counteroffensive has come under international scrutiny for its civilian death toll.

The regime has said the assault has killed 84 people, “mostly women and children,” according to Syria’s state news agency, SANA.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights put the civilian death toll at 51.

U.N. Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura said Sunday he was “shocked and appalled” at the indiscriminate shelling.

“Those who argue that this is meant to relieve the siege of eastern Aleppo should be reminded that nothing justifies the use of disproportionate and indiscriminate weapons, including heavy ones, on civilian areas and it could amount to war crimes,” he said in a statement.

On Monday, Amnesty International said the opposition has shown “shocking disregard” for civilian life.

“The goal of breaking the siege on eastern Aleppo does not give armed opposition groups a license to flout the rules of international humanitarian law by bombarding civilian neighborhoods in government-held areas without distinction,” Samah Hadid, deputy director for campaigns at Amnesty International’s Beirut regional office, said in a statement.

“Video footage shows they have used imprecise explosive weapons including mortars and Katyusha rockets, whose use in the vicinity of densely populated civilian areas flagrantly violates international humanitarian law. Armed opposition groups must end all attacks that fail to distinguish between military targets and civilians.”

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