Assad regime forces and their allies are pushing forwards in a major ground offensive to recapture Aleppo’s rebel-held east, as fierce bombardment on the city’s besieged areas continued.
Assad regime, backed by Russia, said on September 22 it was starting a new wide offensive to recapture the rebel-held parts of Aleppo after a week-long ceasefire was declared officially over on 19 September. the offensive includes a ground assault, artillery bombardment, and intensive airstrikes.
Since 19 September, more than 500 civilians have been killed and more than 1700 injured in rebel-held areas of Aleppo province, including the besieged eastern part of the city, Civil defense workers said.
Dozens of Russian and Syrian government air strikes continued pounding the devastated city overnight, targeting battlefronts and residential neighbourhoods, according to activists. At least six people were killed in the raids on Sunday morning, activists told Al Jazeera.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said air strikes and shelling continued on Sunday and there was fierce fighting all along the front line which cuts the city in two.
The ferocious air campaign “helped regime forces to advance in the north of the city”, where they reached the outskirts of the al-Heluk district, Rami Abdel Rahman, director of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) monitoring group, told AFP news agency.
The Syrian army told the insurgents to leave their positions, offering safe passage and aid supplies.
“The army high command calls all armed fighters in the eastern neighbourhood of Aleppo to leave these neighbourhoods and let civilian residents live their normal lives,” said a statement, carried by state news agency Sana on Sunday.
“The Russian and Syrian military leaderships will guarantee safe passage for the fighters and will give them aid as necessary.”
If pro-government fighters seize Heluk, Bustan al-Basha and, Sakhur – all rebel-controlled neighbourhoods in Aleppo city’s north – they will confine opposition factions to a small section in the southeast.
The Observatory and the Syrian military said on Sunday that the army and its allies had advanced south from the Handarat refugee camp north of the city, taking the Kindi hospital and parts of the Shuqaif industrial area.
“The air strikes are continuing but now the government and its allies – men from Iraq, Iran, Lebanon – are pushing into the rebel enclave in the east of Aleppo,” Al Jazeera reported.
“They are making progress and they are taking ground from the opposition, particularly in the north of the city.”
The Assad regime forces, backed by Russian air power, Iranian ground forces and Shi’ite militia fighters from Iran, Iraq, and Lebanon, has been tightening its grip on rebel-held districts of Aleppo this year, and this summer achieved a long-held goal of fully encircling the area.
Recovering full control of the rebels’ last significant urban area would be the most important victory of the war so far for Assad, strengthening his control over Syria’s most populous and strategically important regions.
The Syrian crisis began as a peaceful demonstration against the injustice in Syria. Assad regime used to fire power and violence against the civilians and led to armed resistance. 450.000 Syrians lost their lives in the past five years according to UN estimates, and more than 12 million have lost their homes.