Middle East

Syria conflict: Rebels launch attack in divided Aleppo

Photo published by official Sana news agency showing buildings in government-controlled Aleppo which it said were hit by rebel shellfire (11 July 2017) Image copyright Reuters
Image caption State media said several residential areas in Aleppo were struck by rebel shellfire on Monday

Syrian rebel fighters have launched an assault on government-held districts of Aleppo, after troops cut their only route into the divided northern city.

The rebel operation began at dawn on several fronts, with hundreds of shells being fired at western areas.

State media said eight people were killed and dozens hurt by the barrage.

The attack follows a failed attempt by rebels to re-open the Castello Road, the only way out of the rebel-held east for some 300,000 people living there.

Large parts of Aleppo, once Syria's commercial and industrial hub, have been destroyed since fighting erupted there in 2012.

The city has been the focus of intensified fighting since UN-brokered peace talks and a partial truce brokered by the US and Russia broke down earlier this year.

An AFP news agency correspondent said the rebel offensive on government-held districts began at dawn, sparking fierce clashes along the frontline inside Aleppo.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a UK-based monitoring group, said more than 300 shells were fired by the rebels as they attacked.

However, the rebels had so far not managed to make any gains because they had come under heavy bombardment by government aircraft, it added.

Ahmed, a resident of the Syriac quarter in western Aleppo, told AFP that the rebel shelling had completely destroyed his home.

"The sounds of the fighting can still be heard and are very loud, and the shelling on the western neighbourhoods is ongoing," he said.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption Civilians trapped in rebel-held eastern areas were already facing food and fuel shortages

Later, a government air strike on one of the city's rebel-held districts killed 10 people, activists said.

At least 14 other people died when a diesel fuel market in the village of Termanin, in neighbouring Idlib province, was bombed by government aircraft, according to the Syrian Observatory. Those killed included media activist Ibrahim Omar and two civil defence rescue workers, it said.

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Media captionFootage captured the aftermath of a strike on an Idlib field hospital

In the town of Ahsem in Idlib province, an air strike hit a local field hospital, kiling three people, according the charity UOSSM Canada.

UOSSM said the hospital was offering care to many internally displaced Syrians as well as locals in the town.

The rebel assault inside Aleppo came a day after 29 rebels were reportedly killed trying to push government forces back from the Castello Road.

The key supply route was effectively severed on Thursday when troops and allied militiamen took control of a nearby hilltop, putting them within firing range.

On Friday, a UN spokesman said the Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs was "extremely concerned at the unfolding situation in Aleppo... particularly the situation for the estimated 300,000 people trapped in the eastern part".


The Syrian war and Aleppo

Image copyright Reuters

March 2011: Anti-government protests erupt across Syria, but Aleppo is initially untouched as a result of a state crackdown

July 2012: The battle for Aleppo begins. Rebels make swift advances, but are unable to consolidate their gains and the city becomes divided

2013: The government begins bombarding rebel districts with barrel bombs, causing thousands of casualties

September 2015: Government launches fresh offensive on rebel-held east in the wake of Russia's intervention in the conflict

February 2016: The government captures towns north-west of Aleppo, threatening to encircle the rebel-held area of the city

July 2016: Government forces effectively cut the only road into the rebel-held east