Forces loyal to Bashar al-Assad advance on the old city, two other districts and a strategically sited former refugee camp
Syrian troops have launched a large-scale ground attack on rebel-held areas of Aleppo in a bid to make concrete military gains after nearly a week of punitive bombardment that has mostly hit civilians.
Forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad opened multiple fronts in an apparent attempt to increase pressure on rebel forces experienced in close urban warfare.
They advanced on the old city of Aleppo, a former refugee camp in the north captured at the weekend then lost to rebel forces, and in two other districts, opposition forces and state television said.
Rebel commanders were defiant about their chances of repelling troops on the ground, pointing to years of resistance against a better-armed enemy and the advantages of battle-hardened opposition fighters in close street-to-street combat.
According to SANA, the Syrian Army is now in control of al-Farafirah with sappers currently clearing the area from “mines and improvised explosive devices planted by terrorists.”
“The army retook control of the entire al-Farafirah district northwest of the Aleppo citadel after neutralizing many terrorists. Units are now demining the area,” AFP quoted a military source as saying.
After their retreat, the terrorists left munitions and weapons, including large-caliber machine guns, RIA Novosti reports, citing another source with knowledge of the matter.
“We have been able for the first time in several years to move the front in Aleppo,” the Russian news agency’s source said.
It added that the Syrian Army suffered no losses in the operation, which began in the early hours of Tuesday.
The district of Al-Farafirah is located north-west of Aleppo’s main historical landmark, the Citadel – a large medieval fortified palace in the center of the old city. Syrian troops are also demining in other districts in Aleppo, including that of al-Ramusi.
The area, liberated about three weeks ago, is considered extremely important since it is used by humanitarian convoys to deliver food and medicine to people in the war-ravaged city.
Aid delivery, in particular to the city of Aleppo, is one of the main parts of the agreement reached between Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and his US counterpart, John Kerry, on September 9 in Geneva.
The deal, however, suffered a major blow when a UN-led humanitarian convoy heading to Aleppo was attacked on September 19. One aid worker and 20 civilians died as a result, according to a Red Cross representative. It is still not clear who was behind the attack.
The World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations said last week that they plan to resume aid convoys. Rights groups and the UN have repeatedly condemned the dire situation in Aleppo. It is estimated that nearly 250,000 people inside the city are short of food, medicine and other basics.
In July this year, the Russian Reconciliation Center in Syria and the country’s government established several corridors for civilians willing to escape Aleppo.
The plight of the population in the war-ravaged city has been worsened by the repeated shelling from terrorist groups in the past two weeks, according to the Russian military.
On September 19, Al-Nusra Front terrorists launched a massive advance on the Syrian Army and residential areas in southwest Aleppo, the Russian Defense Ministry said at the time. According to the ministry, terrorists used “mortars and missile systems.”
Syria — Destroyed aid trucks stand near the rebel-held town of Urum al-Kubra. September 20, 2016. The US, UK and France said Russia bombed the humanitarian aid convoy. Russia denied the charge. Reuters
Tags: al-Farafirah, al-Ramusi, Aleppo, Assad, Bashar al-Assad, Citadel, John Kerry, Putin, Red Cross, Russian Defense Ministry, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, Russian military, UN-led humanitarian aid, United Nations, World Health Organization