Syrian rebels advance in push to break Aleppo siege

Syrian rebels advance in push to break Aleppo siege
Syrian Islamist and rebel groups advanced in their offensive against President Bashar al-Assad's forces in Aleppo on Tuesday, as regime and Russian warplanes pounded the city to slow them down.
3 min read
02 August, 2016
The rebel alliance recaptured sites surrounding the Hendarat camp from regime forces [Anadolu]
Syrian opposition factions advanced in their offensive to break the regime's siege on Aleppo on Tuesday as rebel-held parts of the city saw renewed shelling from Russian and Syrian warplanes.

Islamist and rebel groups launched a major assault on Sunday on the southern edges of the divided city in a bid to break a government siege of eastern opposition-held neighbourhoods.

The rebel alliance, which includes Jabhat Fatah al-Sham [formerly al-Qaeda affiliate al-Nusra Front] and Ahrar al-Sham group, recaptured sites surrounding the Hendarat camp from regime forces, sources told The New Arab.

"Syrian opposition fighters took control of the al-Sharfa village south of Aleppo, after violent clashes with regime forces," the media spokesman for Ahrar al-Sham told The New Arab. "Dozens of regime fighters were killed and wounded in the attack."

At least 30 civilians, including 18 children were killed in rebel shelling on Hendarat camp, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported.

Rebel factions also made advances on another front line, seizing control of al-Baradat plant which acted as military barracks for the regime forces.

"The assault killed and injured a number of Syrian regime fighters and their allied forces," a local source close to the rebel groups told The New Arab.

Meanwhile, Russian warplanes pounded the southern edges of the city overnight in a bid to push back rebel advances.

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"Air raids and shelling continued throughout the night until Tuesday morning," a local source told The New Arab, "Syrian and Russian warplanes hit al-Halak and al-Rashidin neighbourhood."

Fifteen civilians were killed in overnight by Syrian and Russian air raids, sources added.

The primary goal of the rebel assault is to seize the Ramussa district on the city's southern outskirts, used as the main access route for regime forces and civilians living in government-controlled parts of Aleppo.

Capturing Ramussa would simultaneously cut off government forces and give rebels a new access route to their besieged neighbourhoods in east Aleppo.

The Observatory said 50 rebels and allied jihadists had been killed since the operation began on Sunday, as well as dozens of regime troops.

According to a Syrian military source, about 5,000 pro-regime fighters, including Iranian forces and the powerful Lebanese Shia movement Hizballah, are taking part in the battle for the city, including fighting north of Aleppo.

Facing off against them are thousands of fighters from the Fateh al-Sham Front and allied Islamists including the powerful Ahrar al-Sham faction.

The Observatory called it the largest assault by rebel forces in Aleppo since 2012, when violence first broke out there and opposition fighters seized half the city.

"This battle is the last chance for rebels. If they lose, it will be difficult for them to launch a new assault to break the siege," head of the Syrian Observatory Rami Abdel Rahman said.

Agencies contributed to this report.