Disregarding all international callings for reinforcing the political process in war-torn Syria , Russia’s Kremlin vowed on Thursday to press on with its military campaign backing the Syrian regime’s side of the conflict.
EU foreign affairs Chief Federica Mogherini called the air strikes in Aleppo a “massacre” and said European governments were considering their response.
U.S. officials searched for a tougher response to Russia’s decision to ignore the peace process and seek military victory on behalf of regime head Bashar al-Assad.
Moscow and pro-Assad forces launched an offensive to retake the Syrian opposition-held sector of Aleppo this month, abandoning a new ceasefire a week after it took effect to embark on what could be the biggest battle of a nearly six-year war.
The United States and European Union accuse Russia of torpedoing diplomacy to pursue military victory in Aleppo, and say Moscow and Damascus are guilty of war crimes for targeting civilians, hospitals and aid workers to break the will of 250,000 people living under siege inside Syria’s largest city.
Rebel fighters have launched an advance of their own in countryside near the central city of Hama, where they said they made gains on Thursday.
Deputy Secretary of State Antony Blinken told U.S. lawmakers that President Barack Obama had asked staff to look at how Washington might respond.
“The president has asked all of the agencies to put forward options, some familiar, some new, that we are very actively reviewing,” Blinken said. “When we are able to work through these in the days ahead we’ll have an opportunity to come back and talk about them in detail.”
Secretary of State John Kerry, who personally negotiated the failed truce in talks with Russia despite skepticism from other senior U.S. officials, has said Washington could walk away from diplomacy unless the fighting stops.
U.S. officials say they are considering tougher responses to the Russian-backed Syrian government assault, including military options, although they have described the range of possible responses as limited and say risky measures like air strikes on Syrian targets or sending U.S. jets to escort aid are unlikely.