Syrian government forces, backed by Russian aerial cover, have advanced further in the northwestern city of Aleppo, tightening the noose around militants.
Syrian army troops managed on Sunday to make fresh gains in the northern parts of the city and reached the outskirts of the militant-held district of Heluk after Russian warplanes pounded the militant positions overnight.
If the government troops manage to recapture Heluk and two other districts of Bustan al-Basha and Sakhur, which are militant-controlled districts in the city’s north, there will remain a small militant-held section located in the city’s southeast.
Army soldiers have already managed to fully clear Handarat refugee camp of militants and recapture nearby Kindi Hospital, which is located a few kilometers north of the city. By recapturing Handarat, Syrian troops pushed terrorists further away from Castello Road, a main artery leading to the militant-held parts of the city.
Aleppo has been divided between government forces in the west and the militants in the east since 2012. In an attempt to free the trapped people of the city, the Syrian army, backed by Russian fighter jets, began a major offensive on September 22 to end the militants’ reign of terror in the east.
According to a report by the official Syrian Arab News Agency (SANA), citing an unnamed military source, army troops on Sunday also managed to destroy a number of motorcycles and a car belonging to terrorists near Mahatta neighborhood in the provincial capital, Dara’a. Clashes were also reported in the town of Yadouda in the countryside of Dara’a.
Syria gives safe passage to militants in Aleppo
In another development, the Syrian army released a statement on Sunday through the country’s state media telling militants to leave the eastern parts of the city, adding that it would guarantee them safe passage and necessary aid.
“The army high command calls all armed fighters in the eastern neighborhood of Aleppo to leave these neighborhoods and let civilian residents live their normal lives,” the statement carried by state news agency SANA said.
The Syrian army added, “The Russian and Syrian military leaderships will guarantee safe passage for the fighters and will give them aid as necessary.”
A ceasefire, brokered by the US and Russia in Syria, expired on September 19 after being in place for only a week.
Damascus, however, refused to extend it after US-led airstrikes killed over 80 of its soldiers and wounded some 100 others at a military base in the eastern province of Dayr al-Zawr in violation of the truce.
Russia has criticized the US for not doing enough to rein in militants in Syria to protect the truce, saying continued violations of the ceasefire by militants have made it “senseless” for the Syrian government to stick to the agreement.
The foreign-sponsored conflict in Syria, which started in March 2011, has claimed the lives of more than 400,000 people, according to a UN estimate.