Syrian military captures key portion of rebel-held Aleppo

Syrians looks at the burning and damaged trucks, carrying aid after air strikes destroyed 18 lorries in a 31-truck aid convoy in the town of Orum al-Kubra on the western outskirts of the northern Syrian city of Aleppo last month. Since then, the situation has becmoe even more dire for the 275,000 civilians still living in the rebel-held portion of the city. Photo by Omar Haj Kadour/UPI

ALEPPO, Syria, Nov. 26 (UPI) — Syrian and Russian forces continued the bombardment of eastern Aleppo for a 10th day Friday, advancing into a key housing development that, if taken, would bisect the rebel-held portion of the city.

Forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and rebel fighters acknowledged that Syrian ground forces had moved into the rebel-held Hanano housing district in the eastern portion of the war-torn city. Government forces said they are in “full control” of the district and were working to clear it of landmines and improvised explosive devices.

The Hanano district is at the center of the rebel-held portion of the city. If Assad’s forces take control there it would effectively split the rebels’ half of the city in two, a major strategic advantage for government troops.

Aleppo, once Syria’s largest city, has become the focal point of fierce fighting between rebels and the Syrian military for more than six years. Observers said the offensive is being supported by Russian airstrikes, a fact the Russian government denies.

In addition to the military advances favoring Assad, the estimated 275,000 civilians under siege in the rebel-held portion of the city are on the brink of starvation and have been without any medical care or basic supplies for nearly two weeks. Stores have all closed, streets are deserted, there are few working vehicles with no fuel to operate them. The only food available is being grown in gardens. Al Jazeera reported meat was selling for more than $50 per pound when it was available.

The last time fighting paused for humanitarian aid was Nov. 13 — the date of the last shipment of food and medical supplies from United Nations humanitarian workers. The government assault resumed Nov. 15 and since then, all remaining hospitals on the rebel side of the city have closed or were leveled by bombs, leaving civilians and wounded rebel fighters with virtually no medical care.

The UN said it secured a written agreement from rebel forces to halt fighting to allow humanitarian aides to enter the eastern portion of the city to deliver food and evacuate the most critically injured civilians. The BBC reported the UN had received verbal assurances of a temporary ceasefire from Assad and the Russians, but they have received nothing formal in writing, nor has the combat operation ceased.


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