Assad forces take Aleppo village, reopening supply line

Fri Mar 1, 2013 6:38pm EST
 
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By Dominic Evans

BEIRUT (Reuters) - Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's forces seized a village southeast of the city of Aleppo on Friday, reopening a supply line to the country's biggest city where they have been battling rebels for eight months, a monitoring group said.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the capture of Tel Shghaib marked the last step to creating a land supply route north into Aleppo from Hama province, crucial for Assad's forces who have lost control of part of the main north-south highway.

Rebels say they hold most of the city itself and nearly all the rural hinterland. But they have been unable to achieve a decisive victory and complain that they are outgunned and vulnerable to Assad's air force, artillery and ballistic missiles, which killed dozens of people in Aleppo last week.

The United States pledged direct but non-lethal aid to the rebels at a meeting in Rome on Thursday, disappointing Assad's opponents who had hoped for more tangible military support to tip the balance of forces on the ground.

Activists reported another day of fierce fighting around Aleppo, including the military airport at Nairab, three miles north of Tel Shghaib which Assad's forces retook.

"It's a significant gain for the regime," the British-based Observatory's director Rami Abdelrahman said of the army's push north, which reversed many rebel advances when they moved south into Hama from Aleppo province at the end of last year.

Further east, on the Iraqi frontier, government troops also managed to wrest back control of the Yarubiyah border crossing after insurgents seized it 24 hours earlier, he said.

SYRIA COULD FALL APART   Continued...

 
Boys are pictured through a broken windshield as they stand on a street in Aleppo February 28, 2013. REUTERS/ Giath Taha