Pope Francis on Wednesday deplored the bombings of the northwest Syrian city of Aleppo and urged all sides to protect civilians, warning those responsible for civilian deaths will have to "answer to God".Addressing pilgrims in St Peter's Square at a weekly public audience, Francis urged all sides in the Syrian conflict to "commit themselves with all their strength to protect civilians"."This is an imperative and urgent obligation. I appeal to the consciences of those responsible for the bombings, who will one day will have to account to God," he said.He called Aleppo "an already martyred city, where everybody is dying, children, old people, sick people, young people."The pontiff's comments came after what doctors called 'catastrophic' airstrikes overnight and on Wednesday morning that hit a bakery and put the two largest hospitals in besieged rebel-held eastern Aleppo out of service.
The air raids were the latest bombings in a devastating week-long campaign that has claimed hundreds of lives.Russian-backed Syrian government forces have stepped up air attacks on rebel-held parts of Aleppo since a brief ceasefire negotiated by Washington and Moscow collapsed last week in mutual recrimination Residents have said it is worst airstrike campaign since the start of the civil war in Syria in 2011.Forces loyal to the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad have begun the early stages of a ground offensive aimed at reclaiming eastern Aleppo, which has been under opposition control since 2012.More than 250,000 civilians are thought to be besieged in Aleppo since pro-Assad forces severed the rebels' last route into the east earlier this month.Aleppo, once Syria's largest city and the country's commercial and industrial hub, has been divided roughly in two since 2012, with Assad's forces controlling the west and rebel factions the east.