Syrian rebels announced on Sunday launching a major offensive in order to break the siege laid by Assad regime on the opposition-held parts of Aleppo, where the UN estimates some 300,000 people are trapped with dwindling food and medical supplies.
A rebel alliance that includes the Jabhat Fatah al-Sham group – which was formerly the al-Qaeda linked al-Nusra Front – and the Ahrar al Sham group said it had taken army positions in the southwestern regime-held parts of the city within the first few hours of launching a battle to break the siege imposed on rebel-held areas.
“Regime forces have several lines of defense protecting Aleppo’s western neighborhoods. This battle could last several days, or maybe even weeks,” a journalist said.
“They will first try to capture the nearby al-Hikmeh school, which is used by regime forces as a military unity. They will also try to capture nearby security points, advancing towards Aleppo’s western neighborhoods.”
The Syrian army confirmed the offensive on state media but said its troops had pushed back rebel fighters from an airforce artillery base and denied the rebel alliance had captured the Hikma school.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR), which gathers information from a network of local informants, said rebels and pro-regime forces were clashing along several fronts on the outskirts of the divided city.
Assad regime forces closed off the last route to the opposition holdout in early July, replicating siege tactics that it has employed with mixed results throughout the war.
Seizing control of Aleppo would be the biggest victory for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in five years of fighting, and would demonstrate a dramatic shift of fortunes in his favour since Russia joined the war on his side last year, offering crucial air support.
The UN’s special envoy to Syria, Staffan de Mistura, warned on Friday that basic supplies in eastern Aleppo could run out in three weeks.
— أخبار جيش الفتح (@Lionshunters) August 1, 2016
Rebels publish vidoes for the ongoing battles
Jaysh al-Fatah media office released a footage documenting the targeting of Fatah al-Sham front of pro-regime Shiite militias’ strongholds in al-Hikma school in northern Aleppo countryside.
Opposition fighters occupied the location after the explosion and captivated 12 pro-regime fighters.
Al-Hikmah School is considered a major center for Hezbollah militia and the Iranian Guards. It was used as a departure point for them to launch attacks on opposition areas.
Opposition fighters captured on Sunday al-Hikmah School to the south of Aleppo, in addition to a number of surrounding strategic hills, according to activists.
Jaysh al-Fatah spokesman announced the liberation of “project 1070” in al-Hamdanyya while Shiite militias left their weapons and fled without fighting. Meanwhile, Aleppo operation room announced the start of the second phase of the battle.