Almost 10,000 civilians flee Syrian army’s advance into east Aleppo

Capturing all of Aleppo would be a major victory for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad after almost six years of fighting

Syrian opposition fighters try to hold off Assad government forces near Beyanun village of Aleppo, Syria (Anadolu)

Almost 10,000 civilians have fled battered eastern Aleppo towards government-held districts and the Kurdish-controlled neighbourhood of Sheikh Maksoud, a monitoring group said on Sunday, after an advance by the Syrian army and allied forces that rebels fear could split their most important urban stronghold in two.

“Nearly 10,000 civilians have fled east Aleppo since the night of Saturday to Sunday,” the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said. “At least 6,000 of them went to the neighbourhood of Sheikh Maksoud, the rest went to government zones of Aleppo.” Government forces retook six rebel-held districts of eastern Aleppo over the weekend, forcing huge numbers of civilians to flee as they pressed their offensive to retake Syria’s second city.

The army and its allies took control on Saturday of the large Hanano housing district, on the northeast frontline of the besieged eastern part of Aleppo. On Sunday, the 13th day of the operation, they took control of the adjacent neighbourhoods of Jabal Badra, Baadeeen Inzarat, Al-Sakan, al-Shaabi and Ain al-Tall, according to the Observatory. Government forces are now “in control of most of the northern part” of Aleppo, according to the monitoring group.

The advance, accompanied by Russian and Syrian air strikes, has raised fears among the insurgents that the northern part of east Aleppo could be cut off from the southern part. That would weaken their control over the east and bring more residents closer to frontlines.

Capturing all of Aleppo would be a major victory for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad after almost six years of fighting that has killed hundreds of thousands of people and displaced 11 million others. The conflict broke out in 2011 with the brutal repression of anti-government protests and has since evolved into a complex war involving different factions and foreign powers.