Syrian army claims control of rebel district in Aleppo

The search for survivors continues at a site hit by an air strike in the rebel-held Tariq al-Bab neighbourhood of Aleppo. The city is facing worsening food and medical shortages.
The search for survivors continues at a site hit by an air strike in the rebel-held Tariq al-Bab neighbourhood of Aleppo. The city is facing worsening food and medical shortages.PHOTO: REUTERS

Capture marks first advance on the ground for govt troops in city since offensive began

BEIRUT • Syrian government troops say they have taken control of a central rebel-held district in Aleppo city, where the army is pressing an operation to retake opposition territory.

"The army retook control of all of the Farafira district north-west of the Aleppo citadel after neutralising many terrorists. Units are now demining the area," a source told AFP yesterday.

He said the advance "comes as a continuation of the military operation that was announced that includes an aerial component and an artillery and ground component".

PUSHING BACK

They are working to expand on any opening they create. Today, the other noticeable thing is the heavy use of helicopters and barrel bombs.

AN OFFICIAL FROM AN ALEPPO-BASED REBEL FACTION, citing reports from his fighters on insurgent activity.

Syria's army announced an operation to retake the opposition-held east of Aleppo on Thursday, after a week-long ceasefire broke down.

Since then, Syrian and Russian aircraft have pounded eastern neighbourhoods relentlessly, killing dozens, according to a monitor. The capture marked the first advance on the ground for government troops inside the city since they began the operation.

Aleppo has been roughly divided between government control in the west and rebel control in the east since mid-2012.

A senior rebel official in an Aleppo-based faction said there were clashes in the Suweiqa area of the city yesterday. He said government forces had briefly taken over some positions there but were forced to withdraw.

Syrian and Russian warplanes and artillery bombarded a number of areas in and around the city as ground forces amassed to support attacks, a second rebel official from another Aleppo-based faction said.

That official claimed insurgents had halted any government attempts to advance on the ground.

"They are working to expand on any opening they create," he said, citing reports from his fighters. "Today, the other noticeable thing is the heavy use of helicopters and barrel bombs."

The city is facing worsening food and medical shortages. A medical source in a rebel-held area said hospitals were struggling to deal with a huge number of casualties.

"Hospitals that are still in service are under a lot of pressure due to the significant number of wounded in recent days, and the major shortage of blood," the source said. "Because of this, serious injuries are requiring immediate amputations."

Several charity kitchens in the rebel-held east were closed in fear of strikes, while water remained cut after pumping stations were damaged at the weekend.

Meanwhile, Russia has condemned what it called "unacceptable" Western rhetoric after allegations of war crimes in Aleppo.

During an emergency session of the UN Security Council on Sunday, US ambassador Samantha Power accused Russia of "barbarism", while the British and French envoys went even further.

"War crimes are being committed here in Aleppo," Mr Francois Delattre of France said.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov on Monday denounced "the overall unacceptable tone and rhetoric of the representatives of the United Kingdom and the United States, which can damage and harm our relations".

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 28, 2016, with the headline 'Syrian army claims control of rebel district in Aleppo'. Print Edition | Subscribe