Syria govt forces recapture second rebel-held district

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Beirut —The Syrian Army says it has recaptured a second rebel-held district in eastern Aleppo. Military officials said they have taken full control of the Jabal Badro district. It is the second residential area in eastern Aleppo to fall under government control in the past two days.
Meanwhile, hundreds of people in the war-torn Syrian city of Aleppo are reported to have fled rebel-held areas to districts that are now under government control. The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which monitors and reports on the country’s nearly six-year civil war, said at least 400 refugees escaped to the Masakan Hanano district after government forces recaptured the neighborhood.
“It is the first exodus of this kind from east Aleppo since 2012,” Observatory chief Rami Abdel Rahman said.
Syria said its Russia-backed army gained “full control” of Masakan Hanano, a key rebel-held district in Aleppo, after 13 days of heavy combat.
A fighter from the Syrian pro-government forces mans a gun inside damaged houses as they approach the Baeedin district in eastern Aleppo, near Masaken Hanano, November 23, 2016.
A fighter from the Syrian pro-government forces mans a gun inside damaged houses as they approach the Baeedin district in eastern Aleppo, near Masaken Hanano, November 23, 2016.
According to reports, the Observatory said there are still an estimated 250,000 civilians trapped in rebel-held eastern Aleppo. Families are facing serious food and fuel shortages.
State media also said army engineering units in the Masakan Hanano district were seen dismantling mines and other explosive devices planted by rebels who seized control of eastern Aleppo in 2012 as part of a push to topple the government of President Bashar al-Assad.
“The armed forces retook full control of Masakan Hanano after having put an end to the presence of terrorists there,” state television reported.
Western analysts have for days stressed the strategic significance of Masakan Hanano, the largest district in eastern Aleppo, warning that its fall would place government forces in position to cut off northern parts of the rebel-held sector from the rest of the opposition-held districts. The Observatory said last week that the imminent fall of Masakan Hanano would give the government regime a line of fire control over several other neighborhoods.
Rahman also warned that the fall of Masakan Hanano would allow the government to isolate northern parts of eastern Aleppo from the rest of the opposition-held districts, effectively splitting eastern Aleppo in two.
Government ground forces began a push into Masakan Hanano last week, after days of an intensive bombing campaign by Syrian and Russian warplanes.
Samantha Power, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, told the U.N. Security Council last week that nearly 300 civilians had been killed in eastern Aleppo in the preceding week. Dozens more have been reported killed since then. “The reality is that the [government] regime and Russia are continuing their ‘starve, get bombed or surrender’ strategy in eastern Aleppo,” she said on November 21.—Agencies