Syrian rebels launch Aleppo counter-attack

A rebel from the Jaish al-Fatah group on Friday firing a mortar during an assault on Syrian government forces focused on the western edge of Aleppo.
A rebel from the Jaish al-Fatah group on Friday firing a mortar during an assault on Syrian government forces focused on the western edge of Aleppo.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

BEIRUT • Syrian rebels, including terror groups, have counter-attacked the army and its allies, aiming to break a weeks-long siege on eastern Aleppo, insurgents said.

The assault that began on Friday, employing heavy shelling and suicide car bombs, was mainly focused on the city's western edge by rebels based in the countryside outside Aleppo. They included Jabhat Fateh al-Sham, a former Al-Qaeda affiliate previously known as the Nusra Front, and groups fighting under the Free Syrian Army banner.

The rebel fire has killed at least 21 civilians, including two children, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. The fighting also killed at least 18 government soldiers and allied fighters, but the Observatory did not have a toll for the rebels.

More than 1,500 fighters from the provinces of Aleppo and Idlib to the west were attacking government-controlled districts of the city along a front stretching for 15km, it said.

The Observatory reported that Russian air raids on Aleppo's western front lines, but said a halt to Moscow's aerial bombing of the rebel-held east of the city was holding. The Russian military said it had asked President Vladimir Putin for authorisation to resume air raids.

But Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Mr Putin "considers it inappropriate at the current moment", adding that the President thought it necessary to "continue the humanitarian pause" in the war-ravaged city.

Rejecting Kremlin claims that attacks on Aleppo have stopped, a US official said on Friday that "the regime has rejected UN requests to deliver aid to eastern Aleppo - using starvation as a weapon of war".

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on October 30, 2016, with the headline 'Syrian rebels launch Aleppo counter-attack'. Print Edition | Subscribe