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Assad regime erases gains by Syrian rebels in Aleppo

Regime forces have regained areas on the edge of Aleppo that rebels had taken over the past two weeks. The most recent combat has left more than 450 people dead - including civilians and fighters from both sides.

According to the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, government forces and their allies have regained control of two districts in western Aleppo that rebels had taken in their major offensive to break the monthslong military siege of the city's opposition-held east.

In July, regime forces forces surrounded the rebel-held district, severing the last supply line into opposition neighborhoods and imposing a blockade that has led to food and fuel shortages. No international aid has entered the area since.

The rebels opened a corridor to the area in August, which allowed some supplies to filter in to civilians and allied factions, but the military forced them back again in September. Opposition forces launched their most recent another offensive on October 28.

Aleppo became an opposition stronghold during 2011's pro-democracy protests and the regime crackdown and war that have followed. The city's division began in mid-2012, and in September the government announced an operation to recapture all of Aleppo. In a shocking deviation from international norms, US President-elect Donald Trump has announced that he could support efforts by Russia and the regime in Syria.

 

Russia's regime support

Russia's Defense Ministry will require the UN to confirm that it can deliver aid to Aleppo before the Kremlin agrees to any new humanitarian pauses in fighting in the shattered Syrian city. Ministry officials say previous temporary ceasefires on the ground - called to allow aid deliveries and evacuate civilians - have come to nothing because rebels have opened fire on anyone trying to come in or out.

Backed by Russian warplanes, the government's most recent assault has killed hundreds of people in Aleppo and damaged and destroyed infrastructure - including hospitals. The government's most recent advances came as speculation has grown that Russia could prepare to provide air support for the Syrian army to capture other rebel-held parts of Aleppo.

According to the Observatory, more than 450 fighters and civilians have died in the two weeks of battles. The dead include 215 opposition troops, including some who carried out suicide bomb attacks, and 143 regime forces. Nearly 100 civilians also died in the fighting - the majority of them in government-held west Aleppo - including 29 children.

On Thursday, the United Nations warned that the quarter of a million residents of eastern Aleppo could starve as rations continue to run low. More than 300,000 people have died in Syria's five-year multifront war.

mkg/rc (Reuters, AFP, dpa, AP)

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