Syrian Forces Seize More Than Half of Aleppo

A Syrian soldier in the Aleppo neighborhood of Tariq al-Bab A Syrian soldier in the Aleppo neighborhood of Tariq al-Bab

Syrian government forces have taken control of more than half of Aleppo’s districts held by militants.

Staffan de Mistura, the UN envoy for Syria, said on Saturday he anticipated a “terrible battle” for complete control of the city.

Jets and artillery pounded besieged eastern districts, as Syrian troops and allied fighters from Iraq and Lebanon pushed further into the city, securing parts of Tariq al-Bab and the airport road to the east of Aleppo, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

The Guardian reported some of the areas taken by government forces had been held by the militants since 2012.

Mistura told a conference in Rome: “I was feeling it would be a terrible battle ending up by Christmas-New Year. I hope the battle will not take place, that there will be some type of formula.”

Around a quarter of a million people had stayed on in besieged Aleppo, but more than one in 10 fled last week, the UN estimated.

About 19,000 people went to Syrian government-controlled areas, around 10,000 to an enclave held by Kurdish troops and 5,000 moved deeper into militant-held areas. Nearly two-thirds of those displaced are children.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said on Saturday that Moscow was ready for talks with the US about a complete withdrawal of militants from Aleppo, but militant groups have insisted they will fight to the death.

“I asked the factions, they said: ‘We will not surrender’,” Zakaria Malahifji, the head of the political office of the Aleppo-based Fastaqim faction, told Reuters. “The military commander in Aleppo said: ‘We will not leave the city’.”

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