Syrian rebels claim to have broken the three-week government siege of Aleppo in northern Syria. If confirmed, it would turn the tables on the Russian-backed regime forces.
Rebels said they had broken the siege by opening a new route into the city from the southwest. Opposition fighters, Islamists and jihadists have waged fierce assaults since July 31 to end the siege of about 250,000 people in Aleppo's eastern districts by government forces.
At least 280,000 people have been killed and half the population displaced since 2011, when government forces launched a crackdown against protesters calling for President Bashar al-Assad to step down.
The Islamist faction Ahrar al-Sham said on Twitter that rebels had seized control of Ramussa on the southwestern edges of the city and "opened the route to Aleppo" on Saturday.
An Agence France-Presse journalist in eastern Aleppo city reported that residents were out on the streets and shooting celebratory gunfire into the air.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said more than 500 rebels and government fighters had been killed in the offensive since it was launched on Sunday, as well as 130 civilians.
However, Al-Manar, a television station run by the Lebanese group Hezbollah, which has forces fighting alongside Syrian government forces, denied that Ramussa had fallen or that the siege had been broken.
The battle for Manbij
Also on Saturday, the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) alliance won a major battle with "Islamic State" (IS) in Manbij. The Observatory said the SDF "took control of Manbij [...] and are combing the city in search of the last remaining jihadists."
Manbij has been a key transit point along IS' supply route from the Turkish border to Raqqa. The Manbij Military Council said fighting was still ongoing. "The battles are continuing near the center of the town. We are in control of 90 percent of Manbij," spokesman Sherfan Darwish said.
jbh/jlw (dpa, AFP)