BEIRUT (Reuters) - Rebels bombarded government-held areas of Aleppo with rockets on Tuesday, killing 19 people and hitting a hospital, while also launching a ground assault on army-held positions of the divided city, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
The Syrian army said insurgents had launched a broad-based assault and that it was responding. State-run Syrian news channel Ikhbariya said three women had been killed and 17 more people wounded at the al-Dabit maternity clinic.
The army statement said the attack was at “a time when international and local efforts are being made to shore up the (cessation of hostilities agreement) and to implement ... calm in Aleppo”.
The Observatory said the hospital had been heavily damaged.
In rebel-held parts of Aleppo, the Observatory said there had been three air strikes, citing information of an unconfirmed number of people killed.
Aleppo, Syria’s largest city before the civil war erupted in 2011, has been divided for years between rebel and government-held zones. The city has borne the brunt of increased fighting in recent weeks that has wrecked a February ceasefire.
The Observatory said 279 civilians have been killed in Aleppo by bombardments since April 22 - 155 of them in opposition-held areas and 124 in government-held districts.
The ground assault focused on the Jamiat al-Zahraa area of the city, where insurgent groups detonated tunnels and took a few buildings before advances were checked by the arrival of reinforcements on the government side, the Observatory said.
A Syrian army source said a car bomb was used in an attack nearby, adding that the assault had failed. The source added that “matters had been moving towards Aleppo being included in the truce, but it seems there are those who do not want that”.
In a statement, the Nour Al Edin Al Zenkey rebel group accused the government of launching the first ground assault on Tuesday, saying it had attacked west of Aleppo.
The group said the assault was successfully repelled and followed by a counter-attack that led the rebels to capture several positions.
Reporting by Lisa Barrington and Tom Perry, editing by Gareth Jones