CHIPPING AWAY: An Iranian television station broadcasting in Arabic reports on a Syrian government advance in the neighborhood of al-Breij over the weekend as the regime seeks to break the rebel blockade of Aleppo Central Prison.
“From this strategic hill, we have almost reached Aleppo Central Prison, which is no farther than one kilometer away,” says the correspondent, Hussein al-Murtadheh, surveying recent government gains.
For more than a year, rebels have encircled the prison, at one point the last remaining regime-held facility in northern Aleppo, attempting to free hundreds of prisoners and consolidate control over an alternate supply road from the city of Aleppo into northern Aleppo province.
A coalition of rebel groups led by the Islamic Front, Jabhat a-Nusra and Jaish al-Mujahideen have encircled the prison since early 2013, seeking to free hundreds of government prisoners.
Al-Breij is a southwestern entry point into Sheikh Najar, a rebel-held industrial neighborhood in northern Aleppo separating government troops from the encircled, pro-government militias defending the prison, four kilometers to the northwest.
In the advance, government forces seized a handful of buildings, among them a weapons factory.
“This factory is one of the largest and most important factories producing mortar shells, explosive devises and artillery shells for armed groups,” al- Murtadheh says, the videographer panning over seized rebel weapons. “Hundreds of bombs have been produced in this huge factory,” he adds.
Meanwhile, pro-opposition Aleppo News Network reported Sunday that government troops had simultaneously cut a rebel supply road west of the prison, near the village of al-Handarat.
On Monday, rebels coordinating in the Ahl a-Sham Joint Operations Room, including the Islamic Front and Jabhat a-Nusra, uploaded video of counter-attacks on al-Breij, claiming to have killed “dozens of Assad militia members.”
For months, Syrian government troops have pounded Sheikh Najar from Sheikh Yusuf Hill, which overlooks the neighborhood from the southeast.