Regime renews air strikes on Aleppo as rebels launch counterattack to break siege

President Bashar al-Assad's troops begin counteroffensive against rebels who seized west Aleppo neighbourhood on Friday

Bassem Mroue
Beirut
Sunday 30 October 2016 14:48
Comments
Syrian government forces advance in the ongoing offensive to seize the rebel-held eastern part of Aleppo
Syrian government forces advance in the ongoing offensive to seize the rebel-held eastern part of Aleppo

Syrian government forces have launched a counteroffensive under the cover of airstrikes in an attempt to regain control of areas they have lost to insurgents in the last 24 hours in the northern city of Aleppo, activists and state media have said.

Meanwhile on Saturday, insurgents launched a fresh offensive, the day after embarking on a broad ground attack aimed at breaking a months-long government siege on the eastern rebel-held neighbourhoods of Syria's largest city.

Rebels were able to capture much of the western neighbourhood of Assad, where most of Saturday's fighting was concentrated, according to the Syrian army and the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR).

SOHR said the new offensive by Syrian troops and their allies was ongoing under the cover of Russian and Syrian airstrikes. The group said the ground fighting and bombings are mostly on Aleppo's western and southern outskirts.

The Syrian army command said troops and their allies are pounding insurgent positions with artillery shells and rockets, adding that “all kinds of weapons” are being used in the fighting in Assad neighbourhood.

The Aleppo Media Centre, an activist collective, reported airstrikes and artillery shelling of areas near Aleppo.

Yesterday the rebels said they launched an attack on the Zahraa neighbourhood in western Aleppo to try and capture it from government forces. The attack began with a massive explosion that struck government positions on the front line, said Yasser al-Yousef of the Nour el-Din el-Zinki group, one of the main factions in east Aleppo.

A reporter inside the city for the Lebanon-based Al-Mayadeen TV channel confirmed that the rebels attacked the Zahraa neighbourhood. As he spoke from the roof of a building, sounds of heavy exchange of gunfire could be heard in the background.

Aleppo offensive

The Syrian army said troops are repelling the attack on Zahraa. It said the offensive began when the insurgents detonated a vehicle and shelled the area.

Syrian state media said rebels shelled government-held western neighbourhoods of Aleppo on Saturday morning wounding at least 10 people, including a young girl, rebel shelling of government-held areas on Friday killed 15 and wounded more than 100.

On Friday, insurgents including members of Fatah al-Sham and the ultraconservative Ajnad al-Sham and Ahrar al-Sham militias took advantage of cloudy and rainy weather to attack government positions. On Saturday the weather was better, according to residents.

“There are ongoing clashes,” said opposition activist Baraa al-Halaby by telephone from besieged east Aleppo, adding that the fighting is far from them but explosions could be clearly heard in the city.

East Aleppo has been subjected to a ferocious campaign of aerial attacks by Russian and Syrian government warplanes, and hundreds of people have been killed in recent weeks, according to opposition activists and trapped residents.

The new offensive by insurgents is the second attempt to break the government's siege of Aleppo's opposition-held eastern districts, where the UN estimates 275,000 people are trapped.

UN Special Envoy Staffan De Mistura has estimated 8,000 of them are rebel fighters, and no more than 900 of them affiliated with Fatah al-Sham.

Syrian and Russian officials have said that no ceasefire is possible as long as Fatah al-Sham remains allied and intertwined with other rebel forces.

Aleppo is the current focal point of the war. President Bashar al-Assad has said he is determined to retake the country's largest city and former commercial capital.

Associated Press

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