BEIRUT Oct 2 Syrian government and allied
forces advanced north of Aleppo, pressing their week-long
offensive to take the insurgent-held part of the city after
dozens of overnight air strikes hit the besieged eastern sector,
state media and a monitor said on Sunday.
The Syrian military, supported by Iran-backed militias and
Russian air power, began their offensive to take control of the
whole of the divided city of Aleppo after a week-long ceasefire
broke down last month.
An initial air campaign by Syrian government and allied
forces more than a week ago was later reinforced by a ground
offensive seeking to establish control over the besieged
insurgent-held eastern half of the city.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and state television
said the Syrian military and its allies advanced south from the
Handarat refugee camp north of Aleppo city, which they took
earlier this week, into the Shuqaif industrial area.
Zakaria Malahifji, of the Aleppo-based rebel group Fastaqim,
told Reuters there were clashes in this area on Sunday.
The Observatory added that there was fierce fighting between
rebels and government forces all along the front line which cuts
the city in two.
The relentless Russian and Syrian air campaign in east
Aleppo has damaged hospitals and water supplies.
East Aleppo came under siege in early July after its main
supply route, the Castello Road, fell under government control.
Internationally brokered attempts to establish ceasefires to
allow in United Nations humanitarian aid have failed, although
other international and local aid groups have brought in limited
The U.N's Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs,
Stephen O'Brien, said he was "deeply alarmed by the ferocious
pummelling of eastern Aleppo" and reiterated U.N. calls for a
pause in fighting, medical evacuations and access for aid.
"The health system is on the verge of total collapse with
patients being turned away and no medicines available to treat
even the most common ailments."
"With clean water and food in very short supply, the number
of people requiring urgent medical evacuations is likely to rise
dramatically in the coming days," he said.
On Saturday, the largest trauma and intensive care centre in
eastern Aleppo was badly damaged by air strikes and had to
close. Two patients were killed.
The Syrian American Medical Society (SAMS), which partly
supported the hospital, said the hospital had been hit seven
times since July, with three attacks this week alone.
"The situation in Aleppo is beyond dire ... People are stuck
under the rubble and we can't get to them because of the
intensity of the shelling. We are pleading for help to stop the
bombing," said Mohamed Abu Rajab, a SAMS nurse at the hospital.
SAMS said only five hospitals remained operational in east
The Syrian Foreign Ministry said in a statement carried by
state media that the participation of Russia's air force in the
conflict now in its sixth year had "tightened the noose on
terrorist groups and reduced their ability to spread terror to
The Syrian government refers to all groups fighting against
it as terrorists.
(Reporting by Lisa Barrington; editing by Giles Elgood)