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Syrian army seizes Aleppo Old City from rebels

Syrian government forces and allied militias captured Aleppo’s centrally located al-Shaar neighborhood from rebels on Tuesday

Published: Updated:

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said on Wednesday the Syrian army seized control of all parts of the Old City of Aleppo which had been held by rebels.

The army began to enter the Old City on Tuesday, part of a rapid advance which has seen rebels lose around two thirds of their besieged eastern enclave over the past two weeks.

Meanwhile, the Syrian government forces and allied militias captured Aleppo’s centrally located al-Shaar neighborhood from rebels on Tuesday, securing nearly three quarters of the besieged enclave less than two weeks after launching a ground offensive, according to the Syrian military.

The Syrian government and its ally Russia rejected a cease-fire for the war-torn city, keeping up the military offensive amid rebel retreats and massive displacement.

Rebels withdrew from al-Shaar under heavy bombardment by pro-government forces to the Marjeh and Maadi neighborhoods, local media activist Mahmoud Raslan told The Associated Press. Several gunmen were killed.

“Morale has hit rock bottom,” he said from inside the city’s remaining rebel-held enclave.

The SANA state news agency said the government captured the entire neighborhood as well as the neighborhoods of al-Qatarji and Karm al-Dada.

A map provided by the Syria army showed a quickly shrinking opposition enclave- a pointed leaf-shaped territory in the center, abutting already government-controlled Aleppo districts. The army media said the new gains bring the area controlled by the government in eastern Aleppo to about 73 percent of its original size, which is estimated to be about 45 square kilometers (17 square miles).

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group also reported the gains.

Al-Shaar was home to at least four hospitals available to residents trapped by the government’s siege of the eastern part of the city. But those hospitals, along the rest of the neighborhood, were bombed by the government’s attacks and evacuated. Broad swaths of the city’s eastern quarters are in ruins.

Ibrahim al-Haj, a civil defense member, said he was in the neighborhood shortly before it fell to the government. “It is totally destroyed,” he said, adding that if he had stayed a minute longer he would have been captured. He said the previously densely populated district had largely been deserted since the government forces first moved in on the eastern districts last weekend.

A government intense aerial offensive had preceded the ground troops’ advances.

Rebel defenses are collapsing under the weight of twin offensives by pro-government forces.

Rebels and pro-government forces fought street-to-street in the city’s southern Saif al-Dawleh and al-Zabadiyeh neighborhoods, according to footage provided by Syrian military media and audio provided by local teacher and media activist Abdelkafi Alhamdo.

The Syrian government and its ally Russia on Tuesday issued stark warnings to rebels in besieged eastern neighborhoods of Aleppo, with Moscow’s top diplomat saying the rebels will be wiped out unless they stop fighting and leave the city.

Damascus also said it rejects any cease-fire for Aleppo that does not include the departure of all rebels from the eastern part of the city and that it won’t allow the rebels to use a truce as a chance to “regroup.”