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The New Arab

Syrian rebels ready for battle over key Aleppo road

Rebels launched on Saturday a counter offensive on the regime's newly acquired positions [Anadolu]

Date of publication: 10 July, 2016

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Syrian rebels are preparing for a major counter-offensive to recapture a critical supply route into Aleppo, and break regime siege of the city which threatens 300,000 civilians.
Syrian rebels are preparing for a "major battle" to end a siege by regime forces on rebel-held areas of Aleppo.

Local sources told The New Arab that and rebel forces were hoping to reopen a key supply route into the city and push back regime advances.

Rebels launched a counter-offensive against the regime's newly acquired positions overlooking key Castello road, which is the main artery into opposition areas of Aleppo.

The rebel groups – which include al-Nusra Front and Ahrar al-Sham – led the attack with two suicide car bombs on regime targets.

"The rebels and al-Nusra Front fighters began a counter-offensive on Saturday evening to push back the regime offensive on Castello Road and break through the siege on eastern Aleppo," media official for Ahrar al-Sham Abu al-Yazid al-Taftanazi told The New Arab.

Opposition forces are preparing for a major battle in Aleppo, military spokesman for Ahrar al-Sham Abu Yousef al-Muhajir confirmed.

"The only way to break the siege on Aleppo and reopen access to Castello Road will be through a major battle which the rebels are preparing for," he said.

The UN has voiced concern over the situation in Aleppo with civilians facing starvation sieges by regime forces.

On Friday, UN deputy spokesperson Farhan Haq said that the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs is "extremely concerned at the unfolding situation in Aleppo, Syria, particularly the situation for the estimated 300,000 people trapped in the eastern part".

Civilians face food shortages
Syrian rebel forces are preparing for a major battle in Aleppo [Anadolu]

Residents in Aleppo described shortages of basic goods after government troops advanced within firing range of the key Castello Road supply route.

"For two days the situation was calm, I went to the market and I filled up my motorbike with gasoline. Today, I couldn't even find a single tomato," said Bilal Qaterji, a local textile factory employee.

"There's not a drop of fuel left because the Castello Road has been cut," he told AFP.

Residents in the eastern Aleppo said they feared ongoing shortages if the Castello Road remained closed.

"I worry that the Castello Road will be cut for a long time, it will lead to shortages of bread and other necessities," said Ahmed Kanjou, an unemployed father of four.

Residents said prices were already rising, and many were bracing for the possibility of a lengthy siege.

Syria's government has been accused of using siege tactics to pressure rebel forces, and the UN says nearly 600,000 Syrians live in besieged areas, most surrounded by government forces although rebels also use the method.

Activists and rights groups including Doctors Without Borders [MSF] have reported deaths from starvation in some besieged areas.

The Castello Road wraps around Aleppo's eastern and northern edges and leads into rebel-controlled territory north of the battered city.

President Bashar al-Assad's forces have been trying to cut the route for more than two years and their Thursday advance brought them the closest so far to achieving that goal.

Agencies contributed to this report

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