Syria war: France wants Aleppo war crimes probe

France has announced it will ask the international criminal court to investigate possible war crimes committed in Syria’s Aleppo.

Russian-backed Syria forces have made significant advances in its renewed two-week-old offensive in Aleppo, seizing territory to the north and pushing back the front line in the city centre, Al Jazeera said.

“We do not agree with what Russia is doing, bombarding Aleppo. France is committed as never before to saving the population of Aleppo,” Jean-Marc Ayrault, the French foreign minister, told France’s Inter radio on Monday.

He saId President Francois Hollande will take into account the situation in Aleppo when deciding whether to see his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin when the latter visits Paris on October 19.

“If the president decides (to see Putin), this will not be to trade pleasantries,” Ayrault said.

On the ground in Aleppo, opposition fighters have made advances in Aleppo as they attempt to break a siege of the rebel-held east of the city.

The southern Sheik Said district fell on Monday to a coalition of rebel groups after they overpowered a pro-Assad foreign militia attempting to hold it.

A rebel source told Al Jazeera that more than 20 pro-government fighters from the Iraqi ‘al-Nojabaa’ militia were killed in the clashes, as well as four opposition members being held captive by them.

The source said opposition groups had also suffered casualties but would not give an exact number.

Rebel-held eastern Aleppo has been besieged since early September and has been the focus of an intense aerial bombardment campaign by Russian and Syrian warplanes.

Opposition fighters are trying to break the siege and connect with other rebel held territories to the west of Aleppo.

Since the beginning of the  Syrian military offensive on September 22, a few days after a joint US-Russia-brokered ceasefire collapsed, at least 290 people – mostly civilians – have been killed in rebel-held areas, 57 of them children, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) monitoring group.

Another 50 civilians, including nine children, have been killed in rebel shelling in government-held areas of the city, according to the SOHR, which relies on a network of sources on the ground.

On Saturday Russia vetoed a French-drafted resolution that would have demanded an immediate end to air strikes and military flights over Syria’s second largest city, and for a truce along with humanitarian aid access throughout the country.

A rival Russia-backed resolution also failed to pass.

Monday’s condemnation by France came as Moscow announced the creation of a permanent military base in Syria.

The move, announced by Russian Deputy Defence Minister Nikolai Pankov, is further evidence Russia is building up its capabilities in Syria despite a partial drawdown in March and another sign it is digging in for the long haul to help prop up President Bashar al-Assad.

“By doing this Russia is not only increasing its military potential in Syria but in the entire Middle East,” Senator Igor Morozov, a member of the upper house of parliament’s International Affairs Committee, told the RIA news agency.

Also on Monday, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced during a bilateral meeting with his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, in Istanbul that the two countries have agreed to intensify military contacts, and cooperate on delivering aid to Aleppo.