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In Syria Regime bombs rebels as Aleppo food aid runs out

That followed the deaths of at least eight civilians in the besieged opposition-held side of the city on Tuesday, the monitor said.

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Rescuers and civilians inspect a destroyed building in the Syrian village of Kfar Jales, on the outskirts of Idlib, following air strikes by Syrian and Russian warplanes on November 16, 2016 play

Rescuers and civilians inspect a destroyed building in the Syrian village of Kfar Jales, on the outskirts of Idlib, following air strikes by Syrian and Russian warplanes on November 16, 2016

(AFP)

Syrian government and Russian warplanes pounded rebel-held parts of northern Syria Wednesday, including battered second city Aleppo, where food aid rations were all-but-exhausted after months of regime siege.

The renewed bombardment has killed at least 20 people, including nine children, in Aleppo alone in the last 24 hours, and sparked anger from the United States and United Nations.

It comes as President Bashar al-Assad said in an interview that US president-elect Donald Trump could be a "natural ally" if he fights "terrorists".

Damascus considers all those who oppose Assad's government to be "terrorists" like the Islamic State group, which Trump has said should be the focus of US involvement in Syria.

Damascus and its ally Russia launched a wide-ranging assault on rebels on Tuesday, shattering a month of relative calm in the rebel-held east of devastated Aleppo.

An AFP correspondent in the east reported heavy bombardment throughout the night and into the morning.

And the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based monitor, said at least 12 civilians, among them four children, had been killed in government air strikes and artillery fire in eastern Aleppo on Wednesday.

That followed the deaths of at least eight civilians in the besieged opposition-held side of the city on Tuesday, the monitor said.

The Observatory also reported ongoing strikes in Idlib province, in northwestern Syria, which is mostly controlled by a coalition of rebel groups including Al-Qaeda's former affiliate Fateh al-Sham Front.

Food aid runs out in Aleppo

The monitor said six people had been killed in strikes in the village of Kafr Jalis in Idlib on Tuesday night.

"The shelling targeted innocent civilians in their homes in Kafr Jalis, and there is a lot of destruction," said Yahya Arja from the White Helmets civil defence in the province.

"We worked through the night to lift the debris and remove the martyrs and surviving civilians, and now we're trying to remove the rubble blocking the roads," he told AFP.

The situation on the ground in Syria with recent strikes in Aleppo by Syrian forces and by warplanes taking off from a Russian carrier play

The situation on the ground in Syria with recent strikes in Aleppo by Syrian forces and by warplanes taking off from a Russian carrier

(AFP)

The bombardment ended a period of relative respite, particularly in eastern Aleppo, where Moscow halted air strikes on October 18 ahead of a series of brief ceasefires.

The ceasefires were intended to encourage residents and surrendering rebels to leave the east, but few did so, expressing fear of moving into government-held territory.

Food aid stockpiled in the east is all-but-exhausted, with international organisations and their local partners saying they were distributing the final rations in recent days.

No aid has entered the eastern neighbourhoods since government troops surrounded it in mid-July.

Once Syria's economic powerhouse, Aleppo has been ravaged by the war that has killed more than 300,000 people across the country since it started in March 2011 with anti-government protests.

Assad open to Trump alliance

Assad ally Russia intervened in September last year in a bid to bolster the government, and on Tuesday announced warplanes taking off from its Admiral Kuznetsov aircraft carrier had carried out their first sorties in the country.

Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu said Russian forces were launching a "major operation" in Idlib and central Hom province, targeting IS and Fateh al-Sham Front.

But the bombardment has been criticised by both the UN and Washington, with the General Assembly's human rights committee voting overwhelmingly on Tuesday to condemn escalating attacks on civilians.

Washington said it had received reports that the latest bombing raids had damaged civilian infrastructure in rebel areas.

"We strongly condemn the resumption of air strikes in Syria by the Russians as well as the Syrian regime," State Department spokeswoman Elizabeth Trudeau told reporters.

"The most recent reported attacks are on five hospitals and one mobile clinic in Syria. We believe it's a violation of international law."

Washington was an early backer of the uprising against Assad, and has supported the rebels fighting his government.

Civilians check destroyed buildings in the Syrian village of Kfar Jales, on the outskirts of Idlib, following air strikes by Syrian and Russian warplanes on November 16, 2016 play

Civilians check destroyed buildings in the Syrian village of Kfar Jales, on the outskirts of Idlib, following air strikes by Syrian and Russian warplanes on November 16, 2016

(AFP)

But that could change under the next administration, with Assad telling Portugal's RTP state television on Tuesday that he welcomed president-elect Trump's campaign comments suggesting Washington's involvement in Syria should be focused exclusively on fighting jihadists.

"We cannot tell anything about what he's going to do, but if... he is going to fight the terrorists, of course we are going to be ally, natural ally in that regard with the Russian, with the Iranian, with many other countries," Assad said.

Washington already leads an international coalition carrying out strikes against IS in Syria and Iraq, but it does not coordinate with Damascus and Assad's government has condemned it as ineffective.

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