Syrian government forces on Monday announced that they had taken control of key northern districts in rebel-held eastern Aleppo, effectively splitting the already besieged territory in two.
Though rebels would not confirm the territory losses, the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported that Assad’s forces had taken control of almost a third of eastern Aleppo, including the critical al-Sakhour district. “It is the biggest defeat for the opposition in Aleppo since 2012,” the Observatory’s director Rami Abdulrahman told Reuters.
The Russian Defense Ministry reported that government troops have captured 10 neighborhoods and over 3,000 buildings from rebels in Aleppo on Monday, according to the Associated Press.
On Monday, Rami Jarrah, a journalist and activist currently in eastern Aleppo, tweeted that many parts of the city were facing heavy bombing by Russian and Syrian planes, and warned of a potential media blackout as a result of servers being hit in the Hadariyeh district.
Thousands of people fled eastern Aleppo over the weekend as fighting intensified.
The UN estimates that there are roughly 275,000 people still living under siege in eastern Aleppo, where food and medical supplies are completely depleted after the last round of aid supplies to reach the eastern part of the city landed in August. The rebel-held area’s remaining hospitals have all been badly damaged or completely destroyed by airstrikes.
“We are deeply concerned about the impact of the fighting on the civilian population in Aleppo,” Scott Craig, spokesman of the UN refugee agency, UNHCR, told AFP.
According to Syria’s regime-friendly al-Watan newspaper, the next stage in the process of recapturing eastern Aleppo will be “to divide the remaining area into security districts that will be easily controlled and to capture them successively.”
Retaking Aleppo would signal a major victory for Assad in the five-year long civil war. The Syrian government launched a renewed effort this month to wrest the eastern half of the city away from rebel forces, regularly pummeling the rebel-held territory with airstrikes and bombing. Government forces have been backed by Russian warplanes as well as thousands of Shiite militia fighters from across the region.