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The New Arab & agencies

Nearly 10,000 flee East Aleppo as regime gains ground

Pro-regime forces have taken control of the strategically important Hanano district [AFP]

Date of publication: 28 November, 2016

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Pro-regime forces made inroads into a number of rebel held districts in East Aleppo on Sunday catalysing a growing exodus of civilians from the war-torn area.

Close to 10,000 civilians are reported to have fled rebel-held East Aleppo as pro-regime forces made significant inroads into the besieged area on Sunday. 

Initially the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) reported that around 2,000 civilians had travelled to regime controlled areas of Aleppo via Hanano after forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad took control of the strategically important district - held by rebels for four years - on Saturday.

Another 2,500 civilians, reported the UK-based monitoring group, had travelled to the Sheikh Maqsoud area of the devastated city, which is under Kurdish control. 

By Sunday night SOHR updated their report stating that the total number of civilians that had fled East Aleppo had risen to close to 10,000.

In addition to taking control of Hanano, pro-regime forces were also reported on Sunday to have taken control of the Jabal Badro and Baadeen areas, with reports on Sunday night that control had been extended into the Anzarat district of East Aleppo. 

The exodus is the largest from east Aleppo, where over 250,000 people are estimated to live, since 2012 and comes in the midst of devastating aerial campaigns over the rebel controlled districts conducted by Syrian and Russian warplanes.

At least 219 civilians are said to have been killed in East Aleppo, including 27 children, since regime forces launched their latest assault on the area on 15 November.

In addition to assistance from Russian warplanes regime efforts in Aleppo are supported by the presence of thousands of Shia fighters from Lebanon, Iraq, and Iran, and have been condemned by the UN.

On Sunday some residents of East Aleppo, taking to social media, expressed fear that the area would soon be overrun by pro-regime forces.

One member of the Syrian Civil Defence posted a message on Twitter that read simply: “Aleppo is going to die.”

Before Syria’s civil war Aleppo was Syria’s commercial powerhouse but nearly six years of conflict has decimated its urban infrastructure, destroyed its historic districts and monuments and exacted a deadly toll on the city’s population, thousands of whom have died. 

UN officials have warned that if attacks on East Aleppo continue at their current pace the city could face total destruction by Christmas.

Earlier this week rebels in the besieged districts reportedly agreed upon a UN plan for aid delivery and medical evacuations from the area. 

However, to date the UN has not been given the green light by the Syrian regime, keen to press home current advantages in a city whose recapture it views as crucial to winning the war. 

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