Apocalyptic scenes in streets of Syria's ravaged Aleppo

Karam al-Masri

Aleppo (Syria) (AFP) - With pools of blood and shredded bodies on the streets, the rebel-held east of Syrian city Aleppo has been reduced to an apocalyptic battlefront under relentless regime and Russian bombardment.

Doctors at one of the last functioning hospitals said they were being forced to carry out swift amputations just to keep survivors alive.

"This morning alone we had 60 wounded come in," said Ahmed, a doctor who asked not to be fully identified out of fear for his life and for the hospital under persistent bombing and air strikes since a new offensive was unleashed on Thursday.

"We're carrying out a large number of amputations just so they survive because otherwise we don't have the means to treat them," he said.

"Many of the wounded are dying before our eyes -- we're helpless," added the doctor, circled by men and children stretched out in pain on the floor.

With supplies of blood and intravenous drips exhausted, Ahmed said the challenge of saving lives was growing hopeless, especially where head injuries are involved.

On one bed, a little boy glanced in silence at his blood-soaked hands.

It was a scene reminiscent of four-year-old Omran whose haunting picture sitting dazed and confused in the back of an Aleppo ambulance last month made front pages around the world.

Only three or four hospitals are still operational in government-besieged east Aleppo, far short of what is needed to cope with the flood of hundreds of casualties from among the estimated 250,000 people trapped in the rebel-held areas.

- Death of a baby -

Saturday's initial death toll stood at 32 but was expected to rise because people remained trapped under rubble, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based monitoring group.

The wounded small boy on the hospital bed lost a baby brother when an air strike devastated their family's apartment in the Bab al-Nayrab district.

"We were home when a missile crashed into our road," said their father, Nizar, standing red-eyed and holding back tears outside what remained of their house.

"Half of the building just caved in and our baby was hit on the head. He died on the spot," said the father, his youngest child lying on the ground wrapped in a blanket to conceal the head injury from his mother.

"I'm waiting for relatives to finish digging his grave so I can bury him," he said.

In Bustan al-Qasr, another district under the barrage of bombs, at least seven people were killed in a strike as they queued to buy yoghurt at a market.

The attack left a pool of blood, the grim odour of death and body parts in the front line district between the government-held west and the rebel-held east of the city that was Syria's economic hub before war reached it in 2012.

In near-apocalyptic scenes, the streets of several parts of east Aleppo are filled with mountains of rubble, burned-out cars and toppled electricity poles.

In Al-Kalasseh, Mohammed dug desperately with his bare hands to try to locate his uncle under the rubble.

"Civil defence workers came to rescue him but there was another strike that wounded six of their volunteers and they left," he said.