Russia strikes kill 21 civilians in Syria's Aleppo city: monitor

A damaged vehicle under rubble following a reported air strike by Syrian government forces on Aleppo's Sukkari on January 16, 2016 (AFP Photo/Karam Al-Masri)

Beirut (AFP) - At least 21 civilians, including three children, were killed Thursday in Russian strikes on rebel-held districts of Syria's Aleppo city, a monitor said.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the strikes on six neighbourhoods of the northern city had also wounded many, and that the toll could rise.

The raids come as government forces press an offensive north of the city, backed by Russian warplanes, to encircle rebels in the east of Aleppo city.

Observatory director Rami Abdel Rahman said it was first time his organisation had been able to confirm Russian air strikes on Aleppo city since Moscow began its intervention on September 30.

Until now Russian strikes had been concentrated on Aleppo province, he said.

Aleppo city has been divided between rebel control in the east and government control in the west since shortly after fighting there began in mid-2012.

In an operation launched on Monday, government forces have now almost encircled the east of the city, cutting the main rebel supply route from the Turkish border and breaking an opposition siege on two towns on the same road.