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Syrian opposition fighters launch counter-offensive in Aleppo as large swathes fall to regime forces

Assad's forces have attempted to consolidate a 'security belt' around the strategic M5 highway [Getty]

Date of publication: 16 February, 2020

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Government forces, supported by Russian airstrikes, have seized 13 towns and villages in West Aleppo, as opposition fighters launched a counter-offensive.
Syrian opposition fighters on Sunday launched a counterattack on regime forces in west Aleppo, after dozens of villages and small towns were captured in a government offensive in the country's last major rebel bastion.

Backed by Russian air strikes, government forces seized 13 villages and small towns north and northwest of the city of Aleppo, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) said.

Regime forces have made significant gains in the region in recent months, winning patches of territory held by jihadists and allied rebels, focusing their latest operations in west Aleppo province.

According to The New Arab's Arabic-language sister site, Turkey-backed opposition fighters launched a counter-offensive to recapture at least two villages in west Aleppo on Saturday night, supported by  "hundreds" of Turkish mortars and rockets. 

The latest regime drive into Aleppo aims to bolster security in Syria's second largest city, which President Bashar al-Assad's government retook completely at the end of 2016 but which is still targeted by rocket fire.

Last week, regime forces seized control of the strategic M5 highway which connects the capital Damascus to Aleppo, the country's former economic hub, and is economically vital for the government.

According to the SOHR, Assad's forces have attempted to consolidate a "security belt" around the M5.

The Russian-backed offensive has triggered the largest wave of displacement in Syria's nine-year conflict, with 800,000 people fleeing since December, according to the United Nations.

More than 380,000 people have been killed in Syria since the conflict broke out nearly nine years ago with a brutal crackdown on anti-government protests.

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