Rebels step up battle in southwest Aleppo

BATTLEGROUND STATE: A day after announcing the I’tassam campaign to seize five military installations in southwestern Aleppo, a rebel leader announces progress Tuesday in the southern suburb of Aqrab, where rebels have cut the supply road to government positions.

“We are just around the corner from the city of Aleppo,” says Lieutenant Colonel Abu Bakr of Jaish al-Mujahideen, which coordinates with Jabhat a-Nusra and the Islamic Front in the Ahl a-Sham Joint Operations Room, the dominant rebel alliance in Aleppo.

Meanwhile, rebels continue to advance in the southern Aleppo suburbs toward the city. “The suburbs are no more than one kilometer from Aleppo,” Abu Bakr said.

In seizing Souq al-Jebes in Aqrab on Tuesday, one day after reportedly killing 38 government combatants and arresting five others, rebels have a road between a-Ramusa and the al-Assad Military Academy, two of the five military installations rebels they would attack beginning Monday.

On Tuesday, rebels seized the district of Souq al-Jebes in Aqrab, cutting the road between two of the five targeted military installations: A-Ramusa and the al-Assad Military Academy. On Monday rebels announced they killed 38 government combatants and arrested five others.

The Syrian government retains control of a strong of heavily guarded checkpoints protecting al-Assad Military Academy. Opposition activists added Tuesday that rebels had destroyed two government tanks in the clashes.

Pro-government television channel Sama, meanwhile, reported Monday that 11 citizens were killed and more than 50 injured in “terrorist” mortar shelling in the southern Aleppo neighborhoods of al-Hamdaniyeh and Sa’ad Allah al-Jaberi square, directly between Aqrab and the Military Academy.

SW_Aleppo.pngRebels claimed to have cut the road between a-Ramousah and the al-Assad Military Academy in fighting Tuesday. Map courtesy of Wikimapia.

The rebel mortar shelling coincided with a government attack on nearby opposition-controlled a-Rashideen, north of the Military Academy, in which scores of “terrorists” were killed and a number of their vehicles destroyed, Sama added.

The name for the I’tassam campaign comes from an Arabic word that roughly translates to “holding fast” or “adherence” and is typically used in religious contexts.

Before rebels announced the new campaign, the battle for Aleppo, Syria’s largest city, had largely concentrated in northern Aleppo, around regime-controlled, rebel-encircled Aleppo Central Prison, and near the Old City in central Aleppo.

-By Osama Abu Zeid and Elizabeth Parker-Magyar on April 8, 2014.

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