Syrian rebels on verge of breaking Aleppo siege

Syrian rebels on verge of breaking Aleppo siege
After capturing an artillery college outside Aleppo, Syrian rebels are on the verge of breaking a siege on the city by regime forces in a dramatic turnaround for the opposition.
3 min read
06 August, 2016
Rebels in Aleppo advance to break the regime imposed siege on the city [AFP]
Syrian rebels seized key positions south of Aleppo as part of an offensive to break the regime's siege of the city, a monitor said. 

"Jaish al-Fatah on Saturday took control of the armament school, where there is a large amount of ammunitions, and a large part of the artillery school," the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

The coalition "is about to cut off, by gunfire, the supply route into government-controlled districts" of the city, Observatory head Rami Abdel Rahman said.

The road, which passes through a southwestern suburb of Aleppo called Ramussa, is the last open route into the city.

If the rebels capture it, they would simultaneously cut off regime forces and open up a new road for their own besieged forces in the city's east.

The attack included a car bomb by the former al-Nusra Front - renamed Jabhat Fateh al-Sham after formally breaking from al-Qaeda.

On Saturday, they announced having captured the two military academies and a third military position.

State television, meanwhile, reported fighting in the three locations.

"The regime forces are in a very difficult position despite Russian air support," Abdel Rahman said.

Once Syria's economic powerhouse, Aleppo has been roughly divided into a rebel-held east and regime-controlled west since 2012.

The Aleppo campaign was named after Ibrahim Youssef, a leader of Syrian Muslim Brotherhood killed in 1979 Hama massacre.

"Along their brothers in other military formations, the fighters of Jaish al-Islam continue their fight in order to lift the siege on Aleppo's civilians," said Jaish al-Islam in a press release.

"Today, both areas of al-Amira and al-Jamaiyyat in Aleppo were liberated. Also, the air defence brigade of Jaish al-Islam responded to Assad's warplanes."

The rebel advance comes three weeks after regime forces backed by Russian air strikes besieged the city's opposition-held districts, raising fears of a humanitarian crisis there.

However, the media office of Hizballah, the Lebanese Shia militant group fighting alongside Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's forces, denied reports of a rebel advance.

The UN estimates that between 250,000 and 300,000 residents have been trapped in the besieged, eastern part of Aleppo since pro-government forces cut the last supply route in July.

The world body and numerous relief organisations have warned of a looming humanitarian catastrophe as conditions deteriorate.

In response to the continuing strikes, residents in the besieged city, including children, burnt thousands of tyres in order to blind regime aircraft.

Russia, a staunch Assad ally, had declared it was offering humanitarian corridors for residents to leave the area.

Rights groups said such passages are not neutral and don't offer guarantees to civilians wishing to use them.

Agencies contributed to this report.