Aleppo bat­tle in ‘fi­nal phase’

Kuwait Times - - NEWS -

The rebels with­drew from six more districts in the face of ad­vanc­ing gov­ern­ment troops, the Bri­tain-based Ob­ser­va­tory said. The re­treat leaves op­po­si­tion fight­ers con­fined to just a hand­ful of neigh­bor­hoods in south­east Aleppo, the largest of them Sukkari and Mash­had. “The bat­tle of Aleppo has reached its end. It is just a mat­ter of a small pe­riod of time... it’s a to­tal col­lapse,” said Ob­ser­va­tory di­rec­tor Rami Ab­del Rah­man.

In the Mash­had neigh­bor­hood, res­i­dents flee­ing the army ad­vance crowded the streets, wit­nesses said. Dis­placed civil­ians - many hun­gry af­ter flee­ing with­out food - sat on pave­ments or lay on the street with nowhere else to go, they said. An AFP cor­re­spon­dent in the gov­ern­ment-held west of Aleppo said the bom­bard­ment of rebel ar­eas could be heard and was among the heav­i­est in re­cent days. “The regime is ad­vanc­ing in east Aleppo un­der gun­fire, mis­siles and shelling,” Bas­sam Mustafa from the po­lit­i­cal of­fice of the Nured­din al-Zenki rebel group in Aleppo told re­porters. “The fight­ers (rebels) are re­treat­ing un­der pres­sure and the sit­u­a­tion is very bad,” he said.

State tele­vi­sion also aired live footage from in­side Sal­hin district, one of the ar­eas fully re­taken yes­ter­day, show­ing wide­spread de­struc­tion. Build­ings were miss­ing en­tire sec­tions, and roads were lit­tered with rub­ble and pit­ted with enor­mous craters. Ter­ri­fied res­i­dents have poured out of rebel-held neigh­bor­hoods as the army ad­vanced since be­gin­ning its op­er­a­tion on Nov 15. The Ob­ser­va­tory said yes­ter­day an­other 10,000 peo­ple had fled rebel ar­eas in the pre­vi­ous 24 hours, bring­ing the to­tal num­ber of those who have left - mostly to gov­ern­ment-held ter­ri­tory - to 130,000.

Syria’s rebels seized con­trol of east Aleppo in 2012, a year into an up­ris­ing that be­gan with anti-gov­ern­ment protests but spi­ralled into a civil war af­ter a regime crack­down. The war has be­come a com­plex multi-front con­flict, draw­ing in proxy pow­ers and ji­hadists such as the Is­lamic State group, which on Sun­day re­took the sym­bol­i­cally im­por­tant city of Palmyra nine months af­ter be­ing ex­pelled. — AFP

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