In Syria's Aleppo, children swim in bomb craters

ALEPPO, Syria - In Syria's second city Aleppo, craters blasted by regime air raids on opposition-held areas have been transformed into improvised swimming pools for children to cool off in raging summer temperatures.

Although the water is filthy, the war-weary children of the country's one-time commercial capital find in these pools a rare opportunity to both have fun and seek relief from the oppressive heat.

In the battered district of Shaar, children and teenagers swim carefree in one flooded crater, the rubble of buildings in a totally destroyed street their backdrop, an AFP correspondent said.

Ravaged by two years of war, the battered city now suffers endemic water and electricity shortages, and residents have precious few opportunities to relax.

"In the past, we used to swim in pools downtown. Now (President Bashar al-) Assad bombards us with explosive barrels and their craters become pools. It's very hot and we cannot sleep during the day or at night," said 12-year-old Aleppo resident Abdel Qader.

Residents say one huge pool was created when a barrel bomb blasted an underground water main.

Despite the water not being clean, teenager Mustafa says he is very happy to be able to swim in it.

"There is no water for showering. Sometimes we bring water from here," Mustafa told AFP.

"We are tired and fasting," he said, referring to the daylight hours fast during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

Since 2012, Aleppo has been divided into rebel-controlled and regime-held areas.

For seven months, rebel areas of the city have been targeted by regime warplanes, with more than 2,000 civilians killed and tens of thousands forced to flee their homes.

The rebels respond to the massive fire power of loyalist forces with frequent mortar attacks targeting army-held areas.