Syria civil war: President Bashar al-Assad's forces plan assault on rebels in Aleppo

The city is still split between rebel-held and government-held areas

Syrian government forces are reportedly preparing an assault on the north-west city of Aleppo, emboldened by their victory in the strategic town of Qusayr.

The city is still split into rebel-held and government-held areas, with static frontlines for months.

A security source has said the push would start "in the coming hours or days," but activists said there were no signs yet of a renewed push on Aleppo.

An article in the pro-government newspaper, al-Watan, said the army was "deploying heavily in the countryside near Aleppo in preparation for a battle that will be fought inside the city and on its outskirts.

"Besieged areas will be freed in the first stages and troops which have been on the defensive will go on the offensive."

It added: "The Syrian army will take advantage of its experience in Qusayr and Eastern Ghouta [near Damascus] to advance in the provinces of Hama and Homs."

And a security source told the AFP agency: "It is likely the battle for Aleppo will start in the coming hours or days, and its aim is to reclaim the towns and villages in the province."

The planned offensive is reportedly called "Operation Northern Storm".

Fierce fighting was reported on yesterday in Nubbul and Zahra, two predominantly Shiite villages on the outskirts of the city.

A rebel commander and former senior military officer, Brig Gen Mustafa al-Sheikh, told the Reuters news agency: "The [army's] aim is to use the two villages as forward bases to make advances in Aleppo and its countryside.

"The regime considers that it has received a shot in the arm after the Qusayr battle, but they will find that it will not be easy to advance in Aleppo."

Qusayr, close to the Lebanese border, had been the scene of nearly three weeks of fighting, and of the first open involvement from Lebanon's Hezbollah militants in the war. Lying along a land corridor linking two of President Bashar al-Assad's stongholds, its capture last week solidified some of the regime's recent gains on the ground that have shifted the balance of power in Assad's favour.

Syria's civil war, now in its third year, has killed 90,000 according to the UN and displaced more than one million. It is fought between forces loyal to President Assad and rebels, mostly from the disparate Free Syrian Army.

Last night in Aleppo, a 15-year-old boy was reportedly shot by rebels in front of his family. Several reports suggest that he had used the name of the Prophet Mohammed flippantly.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
  • Get to the point
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Exhibition Sales Executive - OTE £35,000

£16000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An expanding B2B exhibition and...

Recruitment Genius: QA Technician

£16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This leading manufacturer of re...

Recruitment Genius: Office Administrator

£20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Due to expansion, an experienced and hig...

SThree: Graduate Recruitment Resourcer

£20000 per annum + commission: SThree: Sthree have an exciting opportunity for...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: The masterminds behind the scenes

The masterminds behind the election

How do you get your party leader to embrace a message and then stick to it? By employing these people
Machine Gun America: The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons

Machine Gun America

The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons
The ethics of pet food: Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?

The ethics of pet food

Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?
How Tansy Davies turned 9/11 into her opera 'Between Worlds'

How a composer turned 9/11 into her opera 'Between Worlds'

Tansy Davies makes her operatic debut with a work about the attack on the Twin Towers. Despite the topic, she says it is a life-affirming piece
11 best bedside tables

11 best bedside tables

It could be the first thing you see in the morning, so make it work for you. We find night stands, tables and cabinets to wake up to
Italy vs England player ratings: Did Andros Townsend's goal see him beat Harry Kane and Wayne Rooney to top marks?

Italy vs England player ratings

Did Townsend's goal see him beat Kane and Rooney to top marks?
Danny Higginbotham: An underdog's tale of making the most of it

An underdog's tale of making the most of it

Danny Higginbotham on being let go by Manchester United, annoying Gordon Strachan, utilising his talents to the full at Stoke and plunging into the world of analysis
Audley Harrison's abusers forget the debt he's due, but Errol Christie will always remember what he owes the police

Steve Bunce: Inside Boxing

Audley Harrison's abusers forget the debt he's due, but Errol Christie will always remember what he owes the police
No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat