Air strikes pound Syrian opposition forces in Aleppo

Syrian opposition forces seek to turn the tide in Aleppo, vowing to take full control of the city after breaking the regime's siege on rebel-held eastern districts, while Russian jets scramble to help the regime consolidate its losses.

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

A general view shows rising smoke from burning tyres, which activists said are used to create smoke cover from warplanes, in Aleppo, Syria August 1, 2016.

Syrian regime forces backed by Russian warplanes have intensified their air strikes on opposition-held territories of Aleppo since rebel fighters broke the siege on eastern parts of the city on Saturday.

Bombing by Russian jets targeted opposition forces in the Aleppo countryside after the regime suffered a major setback in its bid to take control of the city, with video footage released by rebels purportedly showing huge fires which they claim were caused by white phosphorus bombs.

Opposition forces successfully secured a vital supply route on Saturday, cutting across a regime-held strip of land in the city’s south-western Ramousah district to connect the opposition-held Aleppo countryside to besieged inner-city neighbourhoods.

In doing so, the rebels could reverse the situation in Syria’s largest city. Control of Aleppo could play a significant role in determining the outcome of the country’s five-and-a-half-year civil war.

The Fatah Army - a coalition of rebel groups including factions of the Free Syrian Army and the former Al Qaeda-affiliate Nusra Front, now under its new name Jabhat Fatah al Sham - has announced a new offensive to liberate the entire city from regime control.

"We have now seized full control of the Ramousah area...We are in our trenches but there are insane air strikes of unprecedented ferociousness. The regime is using cluster and vacuum bombs," said Abu al Hasanien, a senior Fatah Army commander based in Aleppo.

The rebels also posted pictures of armored vehicles, munitions, howitzers, rockets and trucks that they took possession of after they overran the Ramousah military complex.

According to the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR), the rebels are now pushing northwest towards another military complex in the Hamdaniya neighbourhood.

Aleppo had long been an opposition stronghold until Russia entered the Syrian war last year to prop-up the embattled regime of autocrat leader Bashar al Assad. Since Moscow’s intervention, the regime has been resurging, making gains against the opposition and the DAESH terrorist group.

The power-struggle for Aleppo has largely been locked in a stalemate for many months, but with the loss of Ramousah, the regime has had its main supply route from Damascus cut off, which could see regime-held inner-city parts of western Aleppo come under siege.

On Monday, regime troops were forced to redirect food and fuel deliveries to neighbourhoods they control using the alternative Castello Road in the north, SOHR said.

Rebel fighters prepare their weapons in an artillery academy of Aleppo, Syria, August 6, 2016.

Although the regime still has access to western Aleppo through the north, the route is not safe enough for civilians trying to escape the fighting to pass, SOHR head Rami Abdurrahman told Reuters.

Around 300,000 people are said to be trapped in Aleppo, where supplies are running low and food prices have reportedly quadrupled as fears grow that a much anticipated battle could result in mass casualties.

Over five years of war in Syria have failed to break the deadlock between the regime and rebels groups, despite numerous attempts to implement ceasefires and establish dialogue.

According to some estimates, as many as 470,000 people may have died in the war.

As much as half of Syria’s population has been displaced, triggering the worst refugee crisis the world has seen since World War II.

TRTWorld and agencies