Rebel forces down to final few districts in east Aleppo

AMMAN: Syrian rebels now hold just five square kilometers of east Aleppo after pro-regime forces once again cracked through the opposition’s frontlines on Monday, capturing at least six districts and coming closer to an all-but-certain victory in Syria’s second city.

The Syrian Arab Army (SAA) and its allied militias advanced through the opposition’s heavily fortified southern front in Sheikh Saeed, regaining complete control of the Old City on Monday for the first time since rebels took control of Aleppo’s eastern half in 2012.

East Aleppo’s opposition forces control just “two percent” of the provincial capital, pro-regime media reported on Monday. The gains are the result of a four-week Syrian regime and Russian offensive which relies heavily on hundreds of targeted airstrikes to pave the way for ground advances.

Pro-opposition media reported “intense airstrikes” throughout the day on Monday from Russian warplanes and regime helicopters, including vacuum missiles, bunker busters, barrel bombs, cluster bombs and parachute bombs. Up to 11 civilians died in an attack on east Aleppo’s Bustan al-Qasr district on Monday, a neighborhood that regime forces captured earlier in the day.

As many as 100,000 civilians have left east Aleppo since the start of the ongoing offensive, Russia’s TASS news agency reported on Monday. An additional 700 rebel fighters—trapped in the ever-shrinking pocket of opposition control—also laid down their arms on Monday and entered the regime-held western half of the city, the pro-Russian media outlet added.

The next steps are uncertain for the tens of thousands of residents still trapped in rebel-held east Aleppo. Opposition forces are currently evaluating a US-backed Russian surrender proposal on Sunday for the evacuation of both civilians and rebel fighters.

As of publication, no final agreement has been reached.

Justin Schuster

Justin Schuster graduated from Yale University with a bachelor’s degree in Global Affairs and Modern Middle Eastern Studies. He was a 2015-2016 fellow at the Center for Arabic Study Abroad program (CASA I) in Amman, Jordan. Justin worked as a reporter and translator with Syria Direct before serving as the Managing Director.