AMMAN — A Syrian missile killed at least 20 people in a rebel-held district of Aleppo on Tuesday, opposition activists said, as the army turns to longer-range weapons after losing bases in the country’s second-largest city.
The use of what opposition activists said was a large missile of the same type as Russian-made Scuds against an Aleppo residential district came after rebels overran army bases over the past two months from which troops had fired artillery.
As the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad, now a civil war, nears its two-year mark, rebels also landed three mortar bombs in the rarely-used presidential palace compound in the capital Damascus, opposition activists said on Tuesday.
The United Nations estimates 70,000 people have been killed in the conflict between largely Sunni Muslim rebels and Assad’s supporters among his minority Alawite sect. An international diplomatic deadlock has prevented intervention, as the war worsens sectarian tensions throughout the Middle East.
A Russian official said on Tuesday that Moscow, which is a long-time ally of Damascus, would not immediately back U.N. investigators’ calls for some Syrian leaders to face the International Criminal Court for war crimes.
Moscow has blocked three U.N. Security Council resolutions that would have increased pressure on Assad.
Casualties are not only being caused directly by fighting, but also by disruption to infrastructure and Syria’s economy.
An estimated 2,500 people in a rebel-held area of northeastern Deir al-Zor province have been infected with typhoid, which causes diarrhea and can be fatal, due to drinking contaminated water from the Euphrates River, the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Tuesday.
“There is not enough fuel or electricity to run the pumps so people drink water from the Euphrates which is contaminated, probably with sewage,” the WHO representative in Syria, Elisabeth Hoff, told Reuters by telephone.
The WHO had no confirmed reports of deaths so far.