Syrian government troops advance into heart of Aleppo

Syrian pro-government forces in Aleppo's Suleiman al-Halabi neighbourhood on Sept 30, 2016.
Syrian pro-government forces in Aleppo's Suleiman al-Halabi neighbourhood on Sept 30, 2016. PHOTO: AFP

ALEPPO, Syria (AFP) - Syrian government troops advanced in the heart of Aleppo on Tuesday (Oct 4), seizing buildings from rebels as they seek to recapture the east of the city, a monitor said.

Regime forces seized several high-rise buildings in the central district of Suleiman al-Halabi and were pushing north towards other rebel-held neighbourhoods, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

"The regime is gradually advancing in Aleppo's centre and is pushing north towards Bustan al-Basha after street battles today," Observatory head Rami Abdel Rahman said on Tuesday.

"They are focusing on the tall buildings, which were once government administration buildings, because they can monitor entire streets and neighbourhoods from there," Mr Abdel Rahman said.

If loyalist fighters seize Bustan al-Basha and other rebel-controlled areas in the city's north, they will confine opposition factions to a small section of the south-east.

Backed by Russian warplanes, Syria's army began a major military campaign to capture the eastern rebel-held part of Aleppo on Sept 22.

The army is fighting on the city's northern outskirts, inside the city centre, and on the southern edges near the Sheikh Saeed district.

Sheikh Saeed came under heavy government fire overnight, although it was quieter by dawn.

The regime's latest advance comes after bombardment of Aleppo's eastern quarters killed 13 people, including a child, on Monday (Oct 3), the Observatory said.

And according to state news agency SANA, one person was killed and at least 15 wounded in rebel shelling of the government-held west of the city.

Once Syria's commercial powerhouse, Aleppo has been ripped apart by the country's five-year civil war, which has killed more than 300,000 people and forced millions to flee their homes.