Syrian army puts Aleppo under siege

Cheryl Sanders
July 18, 2016

The army's advance towards the Castello Road, which brought it within firing range, came during a 72-hour cease fire announced by the army on Wednesday and that a monitoring group said had been a ruse.

Shells fired from rebel-held areas into government-held areas of the city killed at least 38 civilians on Saturday, reported the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

More than 280,000 people have been killed in Syria since the country's civil war erupted in 2011, starting with peaceful protests that swiftly escalated into an armed rebellion increasingly dominated by jihadist groups.

The Syrian military said it would extend a nationwide ceasefire for another 72 hours from Tuesday, state media reported on Monday.

The Observatory estimates that 250,000 -300,000 people live in opposition-held parts of Aleppo.

The conflict has also seen large parts of the country fall under the control of the Islamic State group, which in 2014 declared a self-styled "caliphate" in territory under its control in Syria and Iraq.

"There is now fierce fighting under way, but the opposition has not advanced because of the heavy aerial bombardment the regime is carrying out on the areas where fighting is under way". Fighting there escalated after U.N.-brokered peace talks and a ceasefire unraveled earlier this year.

With extensive air support, government troops and allied militiamen subsequently moved into the al-Malah Farms area and took control of a mosque complex that overlooks the Castello Road, it added.

He said insurgent fighters had already made gains, and that much of the fighting was taking place in Aleppo's historic Old City.

President Bashar al-Assad's military hand has been strengthened by Russian air strikes that have been underway since September.

Elsewhere in Syria, airstrikes on the village of Darkoush in the rebel-held northwestern province of Idlib on Friday killed 23 people, including two children, according to the Observatory.

Another aim is to ensure the security of government-controlled areas and to prevent the militant groups from blocking the main road connecting Aleppo with the Syrian coast and other provinces in central and southern Syria.

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