Syrian army, allies counter-attack to regain lost ground in Aleppo
Rebels said jets believed to be Syrian and Russian bombed their areas southwest of Aleppo
The Syrian army backed by Russian fighter jets pounded rebel positions in the city of Aleppo on Tuesday in a bid to crush a major insurgent campaign to break the siege of opposition-held parts the city, rebels said.
Rebel groups launched the wide-scale assault on Sunday to break through a strip of government-controlled territory and reconnect their encircled sector of eastern Aleppo with a swathe of insurgent territory in the west of Syria.
This would open a new route south of the city for a quarter of a million civilians in eastern Aleppo who are under siege by the army and its Iranian-backed allies, who tightened their grip last week on a road on the northern edge of the city that was the only route into rebel districts.
Rebels mainly from Jaish al Fatah alliance of Islamist groups pushed from the south of the city while fighters from Free Syrian Army (FSA) brigades pounded government-held areas of Syria’s most populous city and commercial hub before the war broke out in 2011.
The heaviest fighting on Tuesday centered around the strategic Ramousah area southwest of Aleppo. Video released by the Mujahideen Army brigade showed fires raging at a military academy near the country’s largest artillery base.
“We are now overlooking the Ramousah area but Russian jets are intensifying their bombing, which is holding us back from moving quickly,” said Abu Rakan, military commander from Failaq al Sham brigade.
Rebels said jets believed to be Syrian and Russian bombed their areas southwest of Aleppo.
A rebel source in Jaish al Fatah said they had deployed around 10,000 troops, at least 95 tanks and several hundred rocket launcher vehicles in a three-stage battle they gave the name of the “great epic battle of Aleppo”.
They had also prepared scores of suicide bombers to drive explosive-laden military vehicles into army posts.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights in Britain, which described the rebel offensive as the largest so far, said fighting also broke out across the divided city’s main fronts.
The Syrian army said insurgent rockets killed at least nine people, mainly women and children, in Hamadaniyah and Ramousah districts in the last day. At least five civilians were killed when rebels fired toxic gas on the old quarter, it added.
Syrian jets also struck rebel-held Sukari, Seif al Dawlah and Salah al Deen neighborhoods in stepped-up raids on residential areas, rebels said.