Friday, 8 July 2016

Truce called ‘hoax’ as Syrian regime forces, aided by Russia, pound Aleppo rebel positions

  'Syrian government forces took a step toward completely encircling rebel-held parts of Aleppo on Thursday, capturing ground overlooking the only road into the opposition half of the city and effectively putting those areas under siege.

 The army’s advance toward the Castello Road, which brought it to within its firing range, came during a 72-hour cease-fire announced by the Syrian army on Wednesday, which a monitoring group said had been a ruse.

 Rebels said they were fighting to retake lost positions and re-secure the road. Its capture brings the Syrian government closer to its long-standing objective of encircling rebel-held areas of the northern city.

 Heavy aerial and artillery bombardment had at times made the Castello Road impassable. But Thursday’s advance brings government forces the closest so far to the road, making it even easier to hit and effectively cutting off the opposition-held sector of the city near the Turkish border.

 “Currently nobody can get in or out of Aleppo,” Zakaria Malahifji of the Aleppo-based rebel group Fastaqim told Reuters.

 He said government-allied forces were being aided by Iranian fighters and that reinforcements on the government side had arrived from farther south.

 A senior official in another Aleppo-based group, Jabha Shamiya, said the majority of the attacking forces were Lebanese and Afghan.

 Aid agency Mercy Corps said the latest fighting and the almost immediate breakdown of the announced cease-fire had further constricted access to Aleppo residents, 75,000 of whom in the east of the city rely on its assistance each month. Mercy Corps warned its food stocks in the opposition-held half of the contested city of Aleppo could run out in a month.

 “Unless we are able to resupply, it’s going to be very difficult if not impossible to continue support beyond that,” said Dominic Graham, who directs the organization’s Syria efforts.

 On Wednesday, Syrian President Assad’s government announced the 72-hour truce, ending on midnight Friday. Mercy Corp’s Graham said a previous, U.S.-Russia-brokered cease-fire, which started in February but eventually fell apart, had not helped the group’s aid deliveries. Ahmed Ramadan, an exiled Syrian political opposition member, wrote on his Twitter page that the Assad government’s truce was a “hoax.” '

 "Taking advantage of Regime assault on #Mallah, #YPG trying to seize Youth Complex from Rebels to reach Castillo Road."¹

 "Opposition factions regain full control of Castello Rd, trying to push Regime out of the southern farms of #Mallah area."²

 "Opposition factions repel offensive on Castello Rd from south-side. Clashes ongoing in north-side () with Regime+allies."³


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