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Syria

Syrian army takes strategic district in eastern Aleppo

Syrian state media has announced that the army has seized control of an important district in eastern Aleppo after fierce fighting. The capture of Hanano has been viewed as a turning point in the battle for the city.

An army statement said troops had taken full control over the Hanano housing district, which is on the northeast front line of the eastern part of the city.

"The armed forces retook full control of Masaken Hanano after having put an end to the presence of terrorists there," the statement said, referring to the rebels.

It said engineering teams were removing mines and improvised explosive devices "planted by terrorists" in the squares and streets.

An official from one Aleppo rebel group said a map circulated by pro-government media showing the areas of the city the army had taken was largely accurate.

The state broadcaster and the official SANA news agency said President Bashar al-Assad's armed forces, along with their allies, had "full control" of the district, the first part of Aleppo to be taken by armed rebel groups in 2012.

Some fighting on edges

However, Yasser al-Youssef, spokesman for the rebel group Nureddin al-Zinki, said there was still some fighting on the southern edges of the Hanano district, which he called an area of "strategic importance." He warned that if government forces were successful in taking one further district, the rebel-held part of eastern Aleppo would be split into two.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which gathers information from multiple sources on the ground, said government forces held physical possession of 80 percent of Hanano, but that they had the full area in their line of fire.

"They are just hundreds of meters away from isolating the northern districts of east Aleppo from the southern ones," he said.
Some 250,000 civilians have been trapped under a government siege in the rebel-held east, which has lasted months. The capture of Hanano is part of a government offensive to capture the city that is now in its 12th day.

Since November 15, the Observatory has said, the bombardment of eastern Aleppo by the regime has killed 212 civilians, including 27 children.

rc/cmk (AFP, dpa)

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