Syr­ian army re­takes over half of rebel east Aleppo

Kuwait Times - - FRONT PAGE -

Syria’s army ad­vanced deeper into east Aleppo, where by yes­ter­day it con­trolled more than half of the for­mer rebel strong­hold af­ter a fierce as­sault that has sparked an in­ter­na­tional out­cry. Tens of thou­sands of civil­ians have fled east­ern neigh­bor­hoods of the bat­tered city since Pres­i­dent Bashar Al-As­sad’s regime be­gan its lat­est of­fen­sive in mid-Novem­ber. Overnight, gov­ern­ment troops and al­lied forces seized the dis­trict of Tariq Al-Bab where heavy fight­ing had raged a day ear­lier, the Syr­ian Ob­ser­va­tory for Hu­man Rights.

Yes­ter­day, regime forces also se­cured a zone around the road from regime-held western Aleppo to the in­ter­na­tional air­port just east of the city, tak­ing two whole dis­tricts while fight­ing con­tin­ued in a third. The gov­ern­ment has now re­cap­tured around 60 per­cent of east­ern parts of the city that the rebels over­ran in mid2012, the mon­i­tor said. The ad­vance opens the road lead­ing from the gov­ern­ment-con­trolled west of the city to the in­ter­na­tional air­port just out­side Aleppo to the east, which is also held by the regime. It has prompted more civil­ians to flee, head­ing ei­ther fur­ther south into re­main­ing rebel-held dis­tricts or cross­ing into ar­eas un­der regime or Kur­dish con­trol.

As­sad’s forces have made swift gains in east Aleppo, and its loss would be the big­gest blow yet to Syria’s op­po­si­tion in the more than five-year-old war. More than 300,000 peo­ple have been killed since the con­flict started with anti-gov­ern­ment protests in March 2011, and over half the coun­try’s pop­u­la­tion has been dis­placed. The gov­ern­ment has trum­peted its ad­vances, and state tele­vi­sion yes­ter­day showed buses full of res­i­dents go­ing from west Aleppo back to their homes in neigh­bor­hoods re­taken by the army.

More than 310 civil­ians have been killed in the gov­ern­ment’s as­sault on east Aleppo since Novem­ber 15, the Bri­tain-based Ob­ser­va­tory says. Nearly 69 civil­ians have been killed in the same pe­riod by rebel fire on west Aleppo, in­clud­ing nine on Fri­day, it says. Rebels have strug­gled to hold back gov­ern­ment ground forces, who have ad­vanced backed by air strikes, bar­rel bombs and ar­tillery fire. On Fri­day, they rolled back some regime gains in the Sheikh Saeed dis­trict on Aleppo’s south­east­ern out­skirts, but it was un­clear how long they could hold that line.

— AFP

ALEPPO: A gen­eral view taken from the gov­ern­ment-held side of the city shows smoke bil­low­ing dur­ing fight­ing be­tween Syr­ian regime forces and rebel fight­ers in east Aleppo yes­ter­day.

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