Rebel-held Aleppo fears shortages after Syria regime advance

Around 200,000 people remain in the opposition-held eastern sectors of Aleppo

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Residents of rebel-held areas of Syria’s Aleppo on Saturday faced food and fuel shortages after a Syrian government advance cut the opposition’s last supply route into the city.

Around 200,000 people remain in the opposition-held eastern sectors of Aleppo, which has been divided between government and rebel control since shortly after fighting in the city erupted in mid-2012.

Fresh government air strikes on rebel neighborhoods killed four civilians on Saturday, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

And opposition fighters also renewed rocket fire on the government-held west of the city, a day after heavy shelling that killed dozens of civilians.

In the east of the city, residents described shortages of basic goods after government troops advanced within firing range of the key Castello Road supply route.

“For two days the situation was calm, I went to the market and I filled up my motorbike with gasoline. Today, I couldn’t even find a single tomato,” said Bilal Qaterji, a local textile factory employee.

“There’s not a drop of fuel left because the Castello Road has been cut,” the resident of the Bustan al-Qasr neighborhood told AFP.

Government troops effectively severed the Castello Road on Thursday with the capture of a hilltop within firing range of the key route.

Rebel forces responded by firing barrages of rockets into the government-held west of the city on Friday, killing at least 41 people, most of them civilians, according to the Syrian Observatory.

The Britain-based monitoring group said 14 children were among the dead, while Syrian state media gave a toll of 43 dead and 300 injured.

Residents in the east of the city said they feared ongoing shortages if the Castello Road remained closed.

“I worry that the Castello Road will be cut for a long time, it will lead to shortages of bread and other necessities,” said Ahmed Kanjou, an unemployed father of four.

Residents said prices were already rising after the government advance, and many were bracing for the possibility of a lengthy siege.

The government has been accused of using siege tactics to pressure rebel forces, and the UN says nearly 600,000 Syrians live in besieged areas, most surrounded by government forces although rebels also use the method.

The Castello Road wraps around Aleppo’s eastern and northern edges and leads into rebel-controlled territory north of the battered city.

President Bashar al-Assad’s forces have been trying to cut the key route for more than two years and their Thursday advance brought them the closest so far to achieving that goal.

On Saturday, the Syrian army was less than 500 meters (yards) from the key road, and were firing at anyone attempting to use the route.

The Observatory said a man and two children were killed by regime fire on the road on Friday.

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