Damascus: At least 29 rebel militants were killed during battles against the Syrian government forces near a key route in the northern Aleppo city, a monitor group reported on Sunday.
The slain Jihadi rebels, including those with the al-Qaida-linked Nusra Front, were killed during a failed overnight attempt to re-open their last remaining supply route in the northern countryside of Aleppo, after the Syrian army cut it off Thursday, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
The Nusra Front announced on Saturday evening a battle for regaining the Castello road, the last route connecting rebel-held areas in the northern countryside of Aleppo with rebel-controlled areas in the eastern part of Aleppo city. The announcement came after the army forces severed the road on Thursday, following a week-long offensive.
Aleppo, strategically located near the borders with Turkey, is Syria’s largest city and once an economic hub. It has been a focal point of clashes between the Syrian army and the rebels. In the summer of 2012, thousands of armed militants stormed residential districts of Aleppo from its countryside, striking the economic nerves of the Syrian government, which has repeatedly accused Turkey of supporting the rebels for undeclared interests in Aleppo. The rebels captured several districts in eastern Aleppo city and tried repeatedly to expand their presence to government-controlled areas in the west.
The rebels laid siege to western Aleppo districts after cutting the international road to Aleppo in 2014, a siege broken later by the Syrian army, with the help of Hezbollah. Military experts say the initial aim of the new Syrian army’s battles in Aleppo is to lay a siege on the rebel-held areas and cut off their supply lines to force a surrender.
Another aim is to ensure the security of government-controlled areas and to prevent the militant groups from blocking the main road connecting Aleppo with the Syrian coast and other provinces in central and southern Syria. Observers say the Syrian military campaign also aims to recapture areas in the northern and southern countryside of Aleppo in the face of Turkey’s perceived attempts to establish a safe zone in northern Syria.