ALEPPO, SYRIA (DECEMBER 12, 2016) (REUTERS) – The Syrian army and its allies are in the “final stages” of recapturing Aleppo after a sudden advance that has pushed rebels to the brink of collapse in a shrinking enclave, a Syrian general said on Monday (December 12).
Government troops recaptured Sheikh Saeed district of the city overnight on Sunday (December 11). Soldiers patrolled streets filled with rubble and remnants of destroyed buildings.
“The battle is at its end. Only 10 per cent of eastern Aleppo remains in the rebels’ hands”, Lieutenant General Zaid al-Saleh, Head of the government’s Aleppo Security Committee, told reporters in the recaptured district.
A Reuters journalist in the government-held zone said the bombardment of rebel areas had continued non-stop overnight, and a civilian trapped there described the situation as resembling Doomsday.
Amid scenes of destruction, resident of Sheikh Saeed, Asaad Mahdo said the city and its buildings can be rebuilt but lives cannot.
“It is nothing compared to the youth who died. We can rebuild the stone but we can’t rebuild homeland,” Asaad Mahdo, a resident of Sheikh Saeed said.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based war monitor, said the Sheikh Saeed district had fallen to the army in fighting overnight on Sunday night and troops were clashing with insurgents in Karam al-Daadaa and the Fardous district.
An advance into those districts would take the army into the heart of the area held by rebels as recently as Saturday (December 10), pushing them towards a last bastion of control on the west bank of Aleppo’s river and the area southwest of the citadel.
A correspondent for Syria’s official SANA news agency said more than 3,500 people left Sheikh Saeed at dawn on Monday after the army had taken control of the district.
The Syrian army is backed by Russian war planes and Shi’ite militias supported by Iran. The mostly Sunni rebels include groups backed by the United States, Turkey and Gulf monarchies as well as hardline jihadists who are not supported by the West.