Operation to liberate Aleppo 'reaches end, militants leave last holdouts'
Mon Dec 12, 2016
A member of the Syrian pro-government forces gestures in a heavily damaged street in Aleppo's Sheikh Saeed district, on December 12, 2016, after troops retook the area from militants. (Photo by AFP)
Syrian forces are almost in full control of the northern city of Aleppo, nearly three weeks after Damascus and its allies launched a major offensive to recapture the militant-held part of the city, a pro-opposition monitoring group says.
The so-called Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Monday that the battle for Aleppo had reached its end and the government forces were making sweeping advances into the militant-held sector of the city.
The group’s director, Rami Abdulrahman, said the militants had now withdrawn from six neighborhoods in the city, their last holdouts in Aleppo.
"The battle of Aleppo has reached its end. It is just a matter of a small period of time, no more, no less... it's a total collapse," Abdulrahman added.
Syrian forces announced earlier in the day that they were in the last steps of liberating Aleppo, saying almost all but two percent of the neighborhoods in the eastern part of the city, which was under the control of the militants, had been liberated.
The Syrian military said it had regained control over 98 percent of eastern Aleppo and that there were only some pockets of militants and civilians in a small sliver of territory in the center of the city.
The announcement came hours after Syrians and allied forces managed to retake Sheikh Saeed, one of the largest neighborhoods in the southern part of Aleppo’s militant-dominated east. The army also seized control of al-Fardous neighborhood, one of the most populated districts to the north of Sheikh Saeed.
Pro-Syrian forces gesture as they ride on a pick-up truck in the government-held Sheikh Saeed district of Aleppo on December 12, 2016. (Photo by Reuters)
Militants had earlier admitted the loss of key areas in Aleppo, saying they were being squeezed from every side. They, however, insisted that they were holding seven percent of the areas they used to control.
Maps distributed by the army on Monday showed that the tiny portion of Aleppo remaining under the control of militants was a small silver of land located adjacent to the government-held parts of Aleppo in its center.
Aleppo’s complete liberation from the foreign-backed militants would mark a significant victory for Syria in its nearly six-year-long campaign against foreign-backed militants. The liberation of Aleppo would deny the militants their main supply routes across the Turkish border while it would hugely undermine the morale of the militant groups.
34 civilians killed in Daesh-held territories in Hama
Meanwhile, reports on Monday said 11 children and 23 other people were killed in airstrikes in Daesh-held territories in the central province of Hama.
Daesh militants use civilians as human shields against the Syrian forces, preventing them from leaving militant-held areas.
US to blame for Palmyra fall
Russia, a major ally of Syria in the fight against Daesh, has warned that Daesh is still a major threat despite the terrorist group’s defeats in Syria and neighboring Iraq.
This image made from a video posted online by Amaq, a news outlet affiliated to Daesh, on December 10, 2016, purports to show gun-mounted vehicles operated by the terrorist group firing at Syrian troops in Hayan mountain south of Palmyra, in Homs Province, Syria. (Photo by AP)
The Kremlin spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, said Monday that the fall of the ancient city of Palmyra into the hands of Daesh over the weekend showed the seriousness of the Daesh threat.
“The threat of losing Palmyra is a loss for all civilized humankind, not just for Russia,” Peskov said, blaming the United States for the loss of the city, which the Syrians had recaptured earlier this year.
Peskov said the unwillingness of the US to work with Moscow in Syria helped the fall of Aleppo, adding that “cooperation would have probably allowed us to more effectively avoid such attacks from terrorists.”