A rebel alliance and Syrian government forces have been locked in a battle in and around Aleppo city with President Bashar al-Assad’s regime seeking to repel major offensive with heavy air strikes. Aljazeera was there:
Thursday’s attack, the most intense rebel offensive in Aleppo in three years, aimed to build on recent advances against Assad by an array of groups fighting on separate fronts, including Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) group and rebels backed by his regional foes.
A rebel alliance including the al-Qaeda-linked Nusra Front and the Islamist Ahrar al-Sham said they had set up a joint operations room to run the offensive to “liberate” Aleppo and later govern it according to Islamic Sharia law. One Aleppo resident, a 23-year-old student who gave her name as Sahar, said fighting had been “intensive”.
“We are used to the sound of explosions but yesterday there were so many. We heard the blasts but because they were coming from everywhere we didn’t know where the shells were falling,” she told the AFP news agency by telephone. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a group monitoring the war, said the fighting raged into the early hours of Friday.
Rami Abdulrahman, a spokesman for the Observatory, said the rebel forces had seized some buildings from government control on the northwestern city outskirts of Jamiyat al-Zahra, but the advance was not of strategic importance. At least 35 rebels were killed in that area, including a dozen Syrians and many others of Central Asian origin, Abdulrahman said. The Syrian war has drawn foreign fighters from across the Muslim world, including rebels from Central Asia.