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Strikes pound Aleppo ahead of UN Syria talks

Overnight, residents and a monitor reported heavy air raids on the besieged east of the city, which Syria’s army has pledged to retake.

The U.N. Security Council is due to meet later Sunday in an emergency session to discuss the escalating violence, which U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon described as “chilling.”

Washington and its European allies meanwhile said the burden was on regime ally Moscow to save a truce that fell apart in the past week.

At least 101 people, mostly civilians, have been killed in Syrian and Russian bombardment of eastern Aleppo since the army announced an operation to take it Thursday, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

The monitor said at least 17 children were among those killed in the assault, which has included missile strikes, barrel bomb attacks and artillery fire.

On Saturday night, residents said cluster bombs rained down on eastern parts of the city, where an estimated 250,000 people are living under a government siege.

“All night long they were dropping cluster bombs. I couldn’t sleep until four in the morning,” said 62-year-old Ahmed Hajar, who was out looking for bread in Al-Kalasseh neighborhood.

“Today the streets of my neighborhood are full of unexploded cluster bombs. One person was killed when he disturbed one and it exploded,” he added.

“It tore him apart … it was an awful scene.”

‘We’re civilians here’

In the nearby neighborhood of Bab al-Nayrab, 30-year-old Imad Habush was baking bread in a small wood-burning oven outside his house.

“None of the bakeries are open anymore because of the bombing and the shortages of fuel and flour, so people have started making their own bread,” he said.

“I don’t know why the regime is bombing us in this barbaric way. We’re civilians here, we’re not carrying weapons, and we’re besieged, we have no way to escape.”

Once Syria’s economic powerhouse, Aleppo has been ravaged by war and roughly divided since mid-2012 between government control in the west and rebel control in the east.

The eastern portion of the city has been under near-continuous siege since mid-July, prompting food and fuel shortages.

A truce deal hammered out by Russia and the United States this month was meant to see aid trucked into the east of the city.

But the ceasefire fell apart before any assistance was brought in, and the army and its Russian ally have since pounded the eastern neighborhoods with a force that residents say is virtually unprecedented.

More than 300,000 people have been killed and over half the country displaced since the war began in March 2011 with anti-government protests.

Successive attempts to reach a political solution have failed, and the latest bid by Moscow and Washington has virtually collapsed, despite ongoing talks to save it.