Rebel Counter-Attack, Storms Halt Syria Offensive in Aleppo

A rebel counter-attack and stormy weather are preventing Syrian regime forces from pressing their offensive in the northern province of Aleppo on Thursday, a monitor said.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the assault was stalling on its third day and that the clashes have killed 170 people, including 90 government troops and allied fighters.  

The offensive has so far failed to break a rebel siege of the regime-held Shiite villages of Nubol and Zahraa, but government forces had effectively cut the insurgents' main supply route from Turkey into the east of Aleppo city.

However, regime forces backed by Shia Islamist fighters from the Lebanese terrorist group Hezbollah, as well as Iran and Afghanistan, were losing ground to the rebels.  

Earlier in the day, the rebels recaptured most of Hardtaneen village, a day after losing it in fierce fighting, said Observatory chief Rami Abdel Rahman.

"A group of regime forces are still besieged inside the village and clashes are still ongoing," he told AFP.

On another front, rebel fighters were battling government forces around the regime-held village of Bashkoy, also in the Aleppo countryside.

"Most probably the offensive will fail because of the regime's inability to get reinforcements and because of the bad weather," he said in reference to winter storms that have lashed the region.

The Observatory said 90 regime combatants, including allied militiamen, had been killed in the offensive since Tuesday, as well as more than 80 rebels, among whom were 25 foreign jihadists.

Regime forces had captured 40 rebel fighters, while 32 government troops and allied militiamen were seized by the insurgents.

On Tuesday the UN envoy to Syria, Staffan de Mistura, said the Damascus government was ready to suspend aerial bombardment of Aleppo for six weeks to allow humanitarian aid into the northern city.

Once Syria's economic hub, Aleppo has been divided between regime control in the west and rebel control in the east since shortly after fighting began there in mid-2012.

In the surrounding countryside the situation is largely the reverse, with rebels controlling much of the area west of the city and regime forces much of the east.


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