Syrian forces advance into rebel-held east Aleppo

People remove belongings from a damaged site after an air strike Sunday in the rebel-held besieged al-Qaterji neighbourhood of Aleppo, Syria. REUTERS/Abdalrhman Ismail
People remove belongings from a damaged site after an air strike Sunday in the rebel-held besieged al-Qaterji neighbourhood of Aleppo, Syria. REUTERS/Abdalrhman Ismail

Reuters – Syrian government and allied forces seized large parts of an important district in rebel-held eastern Aleppo on Saturday but fierce fighting for control of the residential area continued, rebels, pro-government media and a monitor said.

Government forces have advanced with a ground and air assault on the edge of the besieged eastern half of the city, a move the rebels say is designed to split their most important urban stronghold in two.

Aleppo, which was Syria’s biggest city before the start of a civil war that has killed hundreds of thousands of people, is divided between the government-held west and rebel-held east, where U.N. officials say at least 250,000 people are under siege.

Capturing all of Aleppo would be a major victory for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad after six and a half years of fighting.

A Syrian military source and the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights war monitor said Syrian government and allied forces had taken control of about 80 percent of the Hanano housing district, which is on the northeast frontline of the eastern sector.

A renewed air assault on residential and frontline parts of east Aleppo began last Tuesday after a weeks-long pause in air strikes and shelling there.

Yasser al-Yousef, from the political office of the Nour al-Din al-Zinki rebel group, said insurgents had been fighting fiercely for the past 48 hours to defend Hanano and the southern front of east Aleppo from heavy government bombardment.

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