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War in Syria

'Hundreds' flee rebel-held eastern Aleppo

Hundreds of civilians are reported to have fled eastern Aleppo's rebel enclave following advances by Syrian troops. Ankara claimed that IS jihadis fired chemical weapons in the region outlying Aleppo.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Sunday about 400 civilians had in recent days fled besieged eastern Aleppo into government-captured areas.

In 12 days since renewed bombardments, at least 201 civilians, including 27 children, died in thebesieged sector, said the Observatory. It put rebel fighter deaths at 134.

On Saturday, Syria's army said it had taken control of eastern Aleppo's Hanano housing precinct and engineers were removing improvised explosive traps.

A map showing captured devastated streets circulated by pro-government media was described as largely accurate by a rebel official who spoke to Reuters news agency.

Hanano was the first part of Aleppo taken over in 2012 by armed groups opposed the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Its complete capture by Assad's forces - after airstrikes backed by Russiawere renewed last Tuesday - would split the rebels' erstwhile stronghold into two.

250,000 trapped

Repeatedly, the United Nations had warned of the plight of at least 250,000 people trapped by Damascus' siege.

Bombardments by the regime and its allies had left eight of nine clinics in eastern Aleppo out of operation, said Doctors Without Borders (MSF) on Sunday.

The International Red Cross reiterated warnings that food stocks in besieged eastern Aleppo were running out.

An "international silence" was condemned by Jabha Shamiya, one of the biggest groups fighting Assad in northern Syria.

Residents who fled Hanano on Saturday told the French news agency AFP that they had not been able to set foot outside because of the intense bombing.

Chemical attack

Turkey's army claimed Sunday that chemical weapons had been fired at Turkish-backed rebels in northern Aleppo region by Islamic State (IS) militants.

Rebels had suffered eye and body ailments, said the army.

UN-mandated investigators already accuse IS forces of carrying out at least one previous attack using mustard gas.

ipj/sms (AFP, dpa, Reuters)

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