BEIRUT (AP) — Renewed Syrian government airstrikes on the northern, bitterly contested city of Aleppo killed at least seven people on Friday, just hours before a Russia-announced truce was to expire at midnight, activists said.
Earlier, two media activists who were seriously wounded in an explosion the previous day in the city were taken to neighboring Turkey for treatment. The two have been documenting Syria's war, traveling with rebels and reporting on some of the fiercest battles in the conflict, now in its sixth year.
The activist Local Coordination Committees said seven people were killed in the airstrikes on Aleppo on Friday evening, mainly around the rebel-held Qatirji neighborhood. The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group put the death toll at nine.
The wounding of Hadi Abdullah and his cameraman, Khalid AlEissa, illustrated the dangers faced by those reporting from inside war-torn Syria.
The blast went off late Thursday as the two walked into their apartment building, said Bibars Mishal, a rescue worker in the Syrian Civil Defense volunteers. The force of the blast blew out the entrance door, parts of the walls, along with wires and electricity boxes.
AlEissa suffered a wound to the head while Abdullah was buried under the rubble. "It took us about 15 minutes to cut the wires and pull them out," Mishal told The Associated Press by telephone from Aleppo.
Other activists called it an assassination attempt against Abdullah and his colleague, accusing government agents in the city of targeting them.
Deadly rockets and bombs resumed raining down on the city later in the evening, just before a 48-hour cease-fire announced by Russia was to expire at midnight, activists said.
The Syrian air force with the presumed help of Russian aircraft have been waging a fierce bombing campaign on Aleppo's s opposition-controlled eastern section, while rebels have assaulted the western half of the city, which is under government control, with rockets and mortars.
Fighting had not let up around the city and its outskirts, even during the truce. The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported that the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah lost 14 of its fighters in battles against rebels and al-Qaida militants near Aleppo.
Elsewhere in Syria, an aid convoy delivered food Friday to residents trapped in the rebel-held neighborhood of Al-Waer, in the central city of Homs, the United Nations said. It was the first delivery to the neighborhood, besieged by government forces, in three months.
"People have died in Al-Waer because of the lack of humanitarian supplies of late," U.N. aide official Jan Egeland said in Geneva.
Washington, meanwhile, accused Russian aircraft of bombing a U.S.-backed rebel faction fighting the Islamic State group in southern Syria on Thursday, near the Tanf border crossing with Iraq. The Observatory said the airstrikes killed two rebels, one belonging to the New Syria Army, and another to an allied Iraqi faction.
"There were no Syrian regime or Russian ground forces in the vicinity.?? Russia's latest actions raise serious concern about Russian intentions," said Pentagon Press Secretary Peter Cook.
Syria is the third-deadliest country in the world for journalists after Yemen and Iraq, according to statistics from the Committee to Protect Journalists. At least 95 journalists have been killed in Syria since 2011, some in bombings or at the hands of IS militants. Almost no international news organizations send staff to Syria because of kidnappings by militants, who often kill their hostages.
Rebels and residents in areas out of government control rely on volunteer media activists — such as Abdullah and AlEissa — and monitoring groups to broadcast their news to the world.
In 2013, Abdullah was among the few activists reporting from the besieged strategic border town of Qusair, which eventually fell to the Syrian government forces. He has since been traveling with rebel groups to report from the front line, mostly in northern Syria.
This was the second time this week that the two were wounded. Abdullah spoke to the AP on Wednesday, after they were wounded in an airstrike, the third they covered that day. He said at the time he had to have five stitches to his head while AlEissa got four.
But the wounds from Thursday night appear to have been more severe.
A doctor familiar with their condition said later Friday that the two were taken to an undisclosed location in Turkey for treatment. Abdullah had suffered wounds to his lower limbs while AlEissa was wounded both to the head and stomach, said the doctor, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to the media.
Associated Press writers Jamey Keaten in Geneva, Robert Burns in Washington contributed to this report.