Diplomats have raised hopes for a truce to be declared in the Syrian city of Aleppo where fierce fighting between regime and rebel forces continues to claim civilian casualties. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said a ceasefire could be announced "in the nearest future, even in the coming hours".
Lavrov spoke following a meeting with the UN envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura, in Moscow that came a day after the latter held talks with US Secretary of State John Kerry in Geneva. The UN envoy is pushing for a truce in Aleppo where hundreds of civilians have been killed in recent weeks. "We need to make sure the cessation of hostilities is brought back on track," he said.
At least 19 people including three children were killed by shells fired by rebel forces onto regime-controlled neighbourhoods on 3 May, according to monitoring groups. The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) said 80 more people were wounded as clashes continued in the wake of a wide offensive launched by rebel groups in the divided city.
Syrian state TV claimed one of the rockets struck a hospital in the Muhafaza district. Mohammad Hazouri an Aleppo-based health official said at least four people were killed in the incident. "Shells and mortar rounds are raining down on every neighbourhood Aleppo," he told AP.
The Syrian army said in a statement fighting to repel the rebel offensive "appropriately returning fire", while Information Minister Omran al-Zoubi warned of harsh consequences if shelling of civilian areas was not to stop. "Patience is running out and if they don't stop targeting civilians in the coming hours... they will pay a high price," he said.
Activists however reported that rebel-held areas had also come under bombardment, which killed at least two people. The victims added to the almost 250 civilians who lost their lives in Aleppo over the past two weeks. Most were killed during regime airstrikes on rebel districts, including 55 in an airstrike on a hospital supported by Doctors Without Border (MSF).
Among those slain were six members of the hospital staff, including Aleppo's last remaining paediatrician one dentist and two nurses, the humanitarian organisation said.
"Aleppo is under fire – with people reportedly having no choice but to 'stay and die'," said MSF's head of mission for Syria Muskilda Zancada. "We are hearing as airstrikes continue to target hospitals and civilian areas there is nobody left on the streets. People devastated by years of war are trapped in this nightmare, many are entirely dependent on humanitarian aid, and have no resources to leave."
Meanwhile the UN Security Council unanimously adopted a resolution urging all belligerent parties to protect hospitals and health facilities.