At least 38 civilians killed in rebel fire on government-held part of Syria's Aleppo

Slideshow ( 4 images )

BEIRUT (Reuters) - Rebel shelling into government-held parts of Syria’s second city Aleppo killed at least 38 civilians on Saturday, a war monitor said, as Syrian government forces continued their offensive to completely encircle rebel-held parts of the city.

Those killed included 14 children and 13 women, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights conflict monitor said.

Despite a now-expired three-day ceasefire announced by the Syrian army earlier this week, Syrian government and allied forces advanced this week towards the only route into the opposition half of the city, the Castello Road.

Syrian forces are now 500-1000 meters away from the road, sources say, bringing the road within firing range and trapping between 250,000 and 300,000 people in opposition-held parts of Aleppo.

Aleppo, Syria’s largest city before the war when it had more than 2 million people, has been divided for years into rebel and government sectors. Controlling all of it has been one of President Bashar al-Assad’s biggest goals.

Heavy aerial and artillery bombardment had at times made the Castello Road impassable. But this week’s advance brings government forces the closest so far to the road, making it even easier to hit.

The Observatory said air strikes and heavy shelling also hit rebel-held parts of Aleppo, killing at least five people.

Syrian state media put Saturday’s death toll from rebel-fire in Aleppo at around 40, with more than 300 injured.

Reporting by Lisa Barrington, editing by Louise Heavens