Assad’s forces surround Aleppo, now control 80 percent of Syria’s largest city -
The Syrian Army has been working on encircling the nation’s largest city.
Western diplomats said the Army, backed by Hizbullah and other Iranian proxies, was moving steadily into Aleppo. They said forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar Assad were advancing into Aleppo from three directions and reached the Old City quarter.
“The Army advance was progressing slowly, partly to avoid casualties as well as spare the destruction of the entire city,” a diplomat said.
The diplomats said the rebels, many of them sponsored by Saudi Arabia, were completely on the defensive. They said the rebels were also being hampered by attacks from Al Qaida’s Islamic State of Iraq and Levant, believed to be working with the Assad regime.
“The Air Force bombarded areas in the industrial city of Sheikh Najar neighborhood,” the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said on March 27. “ISIS blew up the house of a leading figure in an Islamic battalion in the perimeter of the Surrin town near the city of Jarables.”
As a result, the regime was believed to be in control over nearly 80 percent of Aleppo. The diplomats said the regime succeeded in mobilizing thousands of Sunnis from the Aleppo area for militias sponsored by the ruling Baath Party.
“The entire campaign is meant to soften up the city for a final assault, probably in the spring,” another diplomat said.
The Assad regime has pounded rebel-held neighborhoods with so-called barrel bombs, dropped from Russian-origin Mi-17 helicopters. The barrel bombs, oil drums with explosives and shrapnel, were meant to expel civilians from rebel strongholds.
“The air campaign has also displaced large parts of the civilian population from opposition-held Aleppo,” the U.S.-based Human Rights Watch said. “The heaviest concentration of the 340 distinct damage sites identified in Aleppo city were in the neighborhoods of Al Marjet, Jouret Awwad, Al Myassar, Helwaniye/Tariq Al Bab, Salheen, Al Sakhour, Al Heidariyya, Dahret Awwad and Masaken Hanano.”