Rebels break long seige of Aleppo

Carla Harmon
August 14, 2016

Footage obtained by Al Jazeera shows rebel fighters at government checkpoints on Saturday, after a breaking a month-long siege on the rebel-held eastern neighbourhoods of the city in a major setback for the forces of President Bashar al-Assad. Last month, the Syrian government seized the Castillo road, the only route into rebel-held areas in Aleppo.

"The mosaic of different religious communities and ethnic groups has been shattered as the conflict, which initially started as a broad-based, non-violent, pro-democracy movement has descended into sectarian fighting which has divided Syrians from one another", he said.

The former Al-Nusra Front - renamed the Fateh al-Sham Front after breaking from Al-Qaeda - said on Saturday that rebels from inside Aleppo city had linked up with others on the outskirts. Its suicide bombers softened Syrian government targets and shattered nerves.

Nonetheless, the military source told Xinhua that the government is still in control of a route into districts of western Aleppo, adding that the rebels' route into eastern Aleppo is quite narrow. Such a victory would be a crushing blow to the insurgents. Besides the town of Idlib, it is the last major urban area they control - and a weather vane for the larger conflict.

"We are in our trenches but there are insane airstrikes of unprecedented ferociousness", a commander in the rebel coalition told Reuters.

An AFP correspondent in the eastern districts said shelling and sporadic clashes were hitting Aleppo but there were no signs yet of significant new offensives. Syria's state news agency said nine civilians, including six children, were killed by two rebel mortar shells in the government-held area.

The Syrian military was not immediately available for comment.

It added that the military operations are continuing on all axes to the south and southwest of Aleppo and that heavy losses are being inflicted upon the terrorist groups in the arms and personnel.

Most were from the Fateh al-Sham Front, the powerful jihadist group previously affiliated with Al-Qaeda that leads the Army of Conquest.

His regime, with help from Iranian and Lebanese Hezbollah militia as well as Russian airpower, gradually sealed off rebel-held eastern Aleppo in the spring.

The Assad Military Engineering Academy, another large government army complex, is located just north of Hamadiya.

"The army has found an alternative way to move food and fuel supplies into western Aleppo", it said. Fighters entered the besieged districts and eight pick-up trucks carrying fresh vegetables were able to get through but no civilians were able to leave as the route remained insecure.

An AFP journalist said hungry residents quickly bought up the supplies.

But the road, which passes through southern edges of the city, remains too unsafe for civilians to use, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Sunday.

"Most recently I'm hearing that the markets are closed and it's next to impossible to purchase food", said Christy Delafield, senior communications officer for Mercy Corps.

The complex, multi-sided civil war in Syria, raging since 2011, has drawn in regional and global powers, caused the world's worst humanitarian emergency and attracted recruits to Islamist militancy from around the world.

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