Rebel fighters break siege in southern Aleppo, sources say

Report: Syrian rebels making progess in Manbij
Report: Syrian rebels making progess in Manbij


    Report: Syrian rebels making progess in Manbij


Report: Syrian rebels making progess in Manbij 01:12

Story highlights

  • Sources: Corridor is too dangerous for aid to reach rebel enclave
  • Syrian state media agency denies the siege has been broken

(CNN)Rebel fighters in Syria have broken a government siege of the crucial northern city of Aleppo by opening a corridor between opposition-held territory in the east and to the west of the city, according to a monitoring group, rebel groups and humanitarian sources.

But little has changed for the besieged residents of rebel-held eastern Aleppo neighborhoods, who have been enduring acute shortages of food and medicine, as the fighting remains too fierce for aid to be delivered, the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and humanitarian workers operating in the area say.
    Syrian state news agency SANA says that the rebels have not broken the siege of the city's eastern neighborhoods. The agency reports that government troops had inflicted "heavy losses" on rebel groups in the fighting raging in the south and southwest of the city.

    Crowds celebrate as siege broken

    An alliance of rebel factions was able to break the government siege Saturday, according to a statement by the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, with militants breaking through government lines to connect with fighters in the eastern part of the city, the observatory said.
    Syrian civil defense volunteers celebrate the breaking of the Aleppo siege.
    Syrian government troops, backed by Russian air power, completely encircled rebel-held neighborhoods in eastern Aleppo last month, cutting off all supply lines to those areas and leaving them with only weeks worth of food.
    Fierce fighting -- some of the most ferocious in the conflict's five-year history -- has raged around the southwestern Aleppo, particularly around the strategically crucial Al Ramouseh neighborhood, as the rebels launched a concerted push to break the siege and allow for the resupply of the encircled enclave.
    Footage emerging from eastern Aleppo Sunday showed people cheering in the streets at news that the siege had been broken.
    The observatory carried a statement from the Army of Conquest, the joint operations room for the Islamist rebel groups, which declared their fighters would continue battling to liberate the city, and vowed to protect residents. It said residents could choose to stay and fight, or flee.
    However the rebels have been unable to secure exit corridors for people trapped in besieged areas, due to intensive Russian and Syrian regime airstrikes on the area, the observatory said.
    Rebel fighters rest during clashes with regime forces in Al Ramouseh on Aleppo's southwestern fringe Saturday.
    An official from Syrian Civil Defense, a voluntary search-and-rescue group also known as the White Helmets, confirmed that this was the case, adding that many residents wanted to leave eastern Aleppo once a secure road out was opened.
    Aid agencies spoken to by CNN said they had humanitarian aid standing by and ready to be delivered to the city, but were waiting until the route was secured.
    About 250,000 people -- including about 90,000 children, according to the World Health Organization -- are facing a humanitarian crisis in eastern Aleppo since supply lines to rebel-held areas were cut, the United Nations says.

    ISIS close to losing stronghold

    Meanwhile, nearly all of the strategic northern city of Manbij, in Aleppo province, has been seized by US-backed militias after a more than a two-months' long offensive against ISIS militants, the observatory and a military official said.
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    The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), an alliance of Kurdish and Arab militias, have been sweeping through the city, located in the northeast of Aleppo province.
    Sherfan Darwish, spokesman for the SDF, told CNN Sunday that SDF forces controlled about 90% of Manbij, and that battles were ongoing.
    Around 25 miles (40 kilometers) from the Turkish border, Manbij is a key possession for ISIS, and the terror group's principal hub between Raqqa, the capital of its self-declared Islamic State caliphate, and Turkey.
    The city has proven instrumental in allowing ISIS to smuggle weapons and foreign fighters in and out of its so-called caliphate.
    U.S.-backed Kurdish and Arab fighters prepare a rocket-launcher as they advance into Manbij last June.