Rebel-held Aleppo launches offensive against Syrian regime
Syrian men sell fuel produced from plastic in the rebel-held side of the northern embattled city of Aleppo on October 27, 2016. (AFP/Karam al-Masri)
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Syrian opposition rebels Friday started a widescale attack on regime forces in Aleppo aimed at breaking the government siege on their enclave of the contested city, both a monitoring group and the opposition said.
Once Syria's commercial hub, Aleppo has been divided into the government-controlled west and rebel-held east since fighting erupted for control of the city in mid-2012.
Eastern Aleppo has been under government siege since July.
Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Muallem vowed on Friday that the state military would take full control of the war-torn city of Aleppo.
"We will not reduce our forces in the fight against terrorism. We will liberate Aleppo from terrorists and unify the city," al-Muallem said during Moscow talks with Russia's Sergei Lavrov and Iran's Mohammad Javad Zarif, according to news agency Interfax.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a British-based monitoring group, said Friday's attack by rebels on regime forces were targeting southwestern parts of Aleppo.
The monitoring group and government fighters also said that Islamist rebels had advanced against the regime on the western outskirts of the city.
Yasser al-Youssef of the rebel Noureddine al-Zinki group said that the opposition forces had seized the suburb of al-Assad.
"Many of the regime forces were seen fleeing the area," he told dpa via WhatsApp.
The Observatory, which relies on a network of activists in Syria, said the offensive involved several rebel groups, including the powerful Islamist Ahrar al-Sham and former al-Qaeda affiliate Jibhat Fateh al-Sham Front, previously known as the al-Nusra Front.
The rebels also attacked the Nairab military air base and Aleppo International Airport with dozens of rockets.
Both facilities are located on the outskirts of Aleppo and under government control.
Meanwhile, residents of eastern Aleppo launched an online campaign backing the rebel attack.
Activists based in the area reported that tyres were set ablaze in eastern Aleppo in order to confuse government and allied Russian fighter jets.
Syrian state television said that army forces had foiled the attack, without giving details.
The rebel offensive began with the detonation of three car bombs, the Observatory said.
"Some 150 shells also rained down on areas controlled by the regime in western Aleppo," Rami Abdel-Rahman, the Observatory head, said.
At least 15 civilians were killed, among them children, and 100 injured in the rebel shelling in western Aleppo, he added.
"This is a crucial attack by the opposition to ease the regime siege on eastern Aleppo," Abdel-Rahman said.
An estimated 300,000 people are under government siege in eastern Aleppo, where residents report declining or damaged supplies of necessities including food, water, electricity and medicine.
Government forces, backed by their Russian allies, have stepped up attacks in Aleppo in recent weeks in an attempt to retake the rebel-held area.
Rebels broke the siege on eastern Aleppo in early August, opening up a new route into the city from the south.
Later, government forces reimposed the blockade.
Elsewhere, rebels Friday fired dozens of rockets into the outskirts of Qardaha, the home town of Syrian president Bashar al-Assad in the north-west of the war-devasted country, the Observatory said.
At least one civilian was killed and six injured in the attack, it added.
Rebels also shelled areas near the Hmeimim air base in Syria's coastal province of Latakia, which is a launch pad for Russian airstrikes against rebels, the Observatory added.
Russia began an air campaign in Syria in 2015 to help al-Assad's beleaguered regime, saying it was targeting extremists there.
- Syrian regime launches multiple offensives against rebels in north
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- Hundreds flee rebel enclave in Aleppo as regime advances
- Syrian army, Russia launch offensive in Aleppo
- With Syrian government detentions and rebel blockades, Aleppo residents caught in the middle