AMMAN: Rebel forces in Aleppo on Monday sought to recapture three east Aleppo neighborhoods seized by the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) and allied militias overnight, the latest in a second week of regime advances that could cut the southern end of the city’s rebel-held territory from remaining districts to the north, a rebel spokesman and activists on the ground told Syria Direct.
Rebel forces launched “a surprise attack” on Monday to retake the recently captured neighborhoods of Qatarji, Maissar and a-Tahhan, less than a mile east of the regime-held ancient Citadel of Aleppo, Captain Abdelsalam Abdelrazaq, a spokesman for the opposition brigade that is fighting the regime, Nour e-Din a-Zinki, told Syria Direct.
Abdelrazaq and several activists in east Aleppo who spoke to Syria Direct on Monday said opposition fighters were able to retake all the neighborhoods captured Sunday.
“On Monday, rebels inside Aleppo were able to regain control over large parts of the neighborhoods regime forces previously advanced on, especially a-Maissar, a-Tahhan and Qatarji,” Abdelrazaq said. Syria Direct could not verify the claims, but can confirm that fighting is ongoing.
Syrian state media outlet SANA reported Sunday that the regime “restored control” over a-Maissar, a-Tahhan and the nearby National Hospital—located just 800 meters from the Citadel—after “eliminating a number of terrorists and destroying their dens.”
Sunday night’s advances are the most significant since last week, when the SAA, backed by Russian airstrikes, captured up to 20 percent of east Aleppo city in a renewed offensive that Russia announced last month to regain Syria’s second city.
Two female Russian field medical professionals were killed on Monday when “opposition militants mounted an artillery attack” on a regime-held hospital in east Aleppo, Russian state media agency TASS quoted a Defense Ministry spokesman as saying. A third doctor also suffered severe injuries, TASS reported.
If regime forces capture all of east Aleppo, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad will have full control of the country’s largest city for the first time since 2012.
Civilians still trapped in Aleppo’s shrinking rebel-held territory say they are afraid to leave after regime mortar fire targeted displaced people last week fleeing their homes in east Aleppo, killing dozens of civilians, Abu Abd a-Rahman, an activist in a-Maissair told Syria Direct.
Civilians also “fear arrest at the hands of the regime” should they enter government-held west Aleppo, he said.
After Sunday night’s advances, hundreds of families “fled to the central districts of opposition-held east Aleppo,” said Fouad al-Halaby, a citizen journalist also from a-Maissair.
Civilians opting to remain in rebel-controlled east Aleppo fear regime forces will “squeeze them into a small area and inflict mass atrocities, as every rocket or airstrike can kill dozens of people,” the citizen journalist told Syria Direct on Monday.
“What’s happening right now in Aleppo is a total extermination.”