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Syria Claims Further Advances Against Rebels In Aleppo

  • RFE/RL

Syria's government says it has recaptured another entire district of Aleppo from rebels, but opposition fighters have denied the claim and vowed to continue their fight against a brutal Russia-backed government offensive.

Forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad said on November 30 that they had taken full control of the Sheikh Saeed district on the southern edge of rebel-controlled eastern Aleppo.

But the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights quoted rebel fighters who said they still controlled a third of the Sheikh Saeed neighborhood.

During the past week, rebel fighters have lost a third of the areas in eastern Aleppo that they had controlled since 2012, cutting their urban stronghold in half and bringing them to the brink of a catastrophic defeat.

The gains by the Syrian Army and its allies have led to a massive human exodus with some 50,000 civilians fleeing decimated neighborhoods near the rapidly shifting front lines.

Syrian military officials are denying a report by the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights that government forces were detaining and questioning hundreds of civilians fleeing rebel-held areas for the comparative safety of state-controlled districts.

The observatory also said Syrian and Russian air strikes were intensifying on November 30 in the city center, with at least 45 civilians killed.

'Slow-Motion Descent Into Hell'

The UN Security Council is set to hold another emergency session on the crisis in Aleppo on November 30.

Aleppo's eastern districts have been under government siege for more than four months, with international aid stocks exhausted and food supplies running low.

World Food Program spokeswoman Bettina Luescher said civilians were enduring a "slow-motion descent into hell."

And France's UN ambassador, Francois Delattre, called for international action, but it was unclear what that would entail and whether it would succeed where so many previous efforts have failed.

"France and its partners cannot remain silent in the face of what could be one of the biggest massacres of civilian population since World War II," Delattre said.

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov said Moscow was hoping that the situation in Aleppo can be resolved by the end of the year.

"We need to force these terrorists out" in the same way as Islamic State fighters need to be forced out in their Syrian stronghold of Raqqa and the Iraqi city of Mosul, the RIA Novosti news agency quoted Bogdanov as saying on November 30.

Bogdanov was also quoted by TASS as saying Moscow had been in contact with U.S. President-elect Donald Trump's team over Syria.

Trump is to take office in January.

With reporting by AFP, Reuters, AP, TASS, and dpa
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