Syrian rebels who broke the siege of rebel-held eastern Aleppo on Saturday in a significant territorial gain came under intense air attack from pro-regime forces on Sunday trying to repel the advance which also cut government-held Aleppo’s main supply route.
Rebels have taken most of a large government military complex southwest of Aleppo city in a major offensive begun on Friday to break a month-long siege and are now attacking further into government-held territory.
The surprise advance in Ramousa allowed fighters from rebel areas in western Syria to break through a strip of government-controlled territory on Saturday and connect with fighters in the encircled sector of eastern Aleppo.
But fierce fighting and continuous Russian and Assad regime’s airstrikes in and around the Ramousah area mean no safe passage for besieged east Aleppo residents has been established, activists and the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
Rami Abdel Rahman, head of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said the development was one of the most significant setbacks for government forces since the conflict erupted in March 2011.
“Despite more than 600 Russian strikes, the regime forces were not able to hold on to their positions,” he said.
Russian jet fighters carried out on Sunday airstrikes with phosphorus on al-Mashhad neighborhood in Aleppo,Orient News correspondent said.
“We are civilians here. Opposition fighters are not among us. Is the world watching these attacks on civilians or they are busy with the Olympics,” a local from al-Mashhad said.
Meanwhile, heavy airstrikes were carried out by Assad regime’s helicopters and Russian jet fighters on residential areas in Aleppo’s al-Marjeh, al-Meyassar and al-Sakhoorm where many casualties were reported.
Assad regime’s warplanes attacked in the first hours of Sunday Daret Ezza’s residential areas in Aleppo southern countryside, Aleppo Today Facebook page said without any reports of casualties.
“Assad regime takes revenge on civilians when its terrorists suffer heavy losses and bitter defeat. I tell Assad terrorists to come on the ground to confront opposition fighters face to face,” an activist from Daret Ezza said.
Bashar al-Assad wants to take full control of Aleppo, pre-war Syria’s most populous city, which has been divided between rebel and government-held areas.
Assad’s government forces are supported in Syria by Russian airpower, Iranian militias and fighters from Lebanon’s Hezbollah group.
— Syrian Network (@snhr) August 7, 2016
Change the balance of power
Rebel gains this weekend could change the balance of power in Aleppo, after Assad said a siege by government and allied forces on rebel-held east Aleppo in early July was a prelude to re-taking the city. The loss of Aleppo would be a crushing blow for rebels.
“We have now seized full control of the Ramousah area…We are in our trenches but there are insane air strikes of unprecedented ferociousness. The regime is using cluster and vacuum bombs,” said Abu al Hasanien, a senior commander in Fateh Halab, the coalition of moderate rebel groups inside the city.
Pro-regime news channels have mostly played down the rebel gains and say Assad regime’s army efforts have caused rebels to withdraw from some recently-gained areas.
But Lebanese pro-regime news channel al Mayadeen said late on Saturday the Assad regime’s army had “withdrawn from a number of positions southwest of Aleppo and repositioned itself in new defensive lines”.
As the rebels took over parts of the government’s Ramousah military complex, which contains a number of military colleges, they broadcast images of the weaponry and ammunition they were taking possession of.
Jabhat Fatah al-Sham, formerly the al Qaeda-affiliated Nusra Front, posted pictures of rows of armoured vehicles, munitions, howitzers, rockets and trucks.
The rebel front line is now pushing northwest into western held Aleppo on the edges of the Hamdaniya neighborhood and a housing estate called the 3,000 project, rebels and the Observatory said.
North of Hamdaniya in the direction of the rebels’ push is another large government military complex, the Assad military engineering academy.
— FSA News (@FSAPlatform) August 7, 2016
— Conflict News (@Conflicts) August 7, 2016