The Assad regime and its allies, backed by Russian air power, are keeping up a heavy bombardment of rebels positions in and around Aleppo, rebels said on Monday, pressing to complete their recapture of the city’s strategic southern gateway.
On Sunday, Assad regime forces succeeded in once again cutting off the supply route of weapons and reinforcements to the rebel-held half of the Syrian city of Aleppo after fierce fighting backed by a major wave of Russian airstrikes against military colleges and key opposition targets.
After re-imposing a siege on rebel-held eastern Aleppo with an advance in the city’s southwest on Sunday, the regime and its allies now aim to block the rebels from bringing in reinforcements, a military source related to Assad regime said.
The latest fighting centers on a military complex at Ramousah that the rebels captured last month after an advance by rebel groups from Idlib, 55km (34 miles) to the southwest. Their capture of the complex broke a month-long siege of rebel-held east Aleppo, a siege that is resuming as the government forces reassert control of the area.
The military source said the Assad regime and its allies were working to widen their control near Ramousah’s military colleges.
“Now the army’s belt of control is being widened,” the military source told Reuters. “All positions where terrorists are located to the west of Aleppo and south of it are being attacked, because this area is a priority for the army, given that Idlib is the human resources store (for the rebels).”
A rebel commander from the powerful Ahrar-al-Sham group said fighters had pulled back to new defense lines to reduce losses in the face of heavy artillery shelling and aerial bombardment.
“The Russians have intensified their bombing. We decided to retreat,” said Abu Omar, adding his fighters were digging in on new defense lines that would allow them to ambush troops.
“They fired at civilians and anything that moved. This led to slower traffic, but after their gains, yesterday traffic is completely paralyzed,” said Mohammed Aref al-Sharfi, a member of the opposition-run Aleppo Province’s local council.
Prices inside rebel-held parts of the city have gone up ten-fold, with no new supplies brought in for 12 days because of Russian air strikes and Assad regime bombardments, said Brita Hagi Hassan, president of the city council for eastern Aleppo.
Escalating Russian bombing of their supply lines from Idlib, the source of most opposition reinforcements, had exposed rebel positions in Ramousah, where they are still entrenched, two rebels there said.