Syrian Islamist insurgents launch battle to seize government-held Aleppo

Syrian insurgents led by Islamist groups began a major offensive to gain full control of the divided northern city of Aleppo, a monitor and rebels said on Thursday.

The fall of Syria’s main commercial hub would be a major blow for President Bashar al-Assad, restricting his control mainly to a belt of territory stretching north from Damascus to the Mediterranean coast. This would deepen Syria’s de facto partition between the Assad-run west and areas held by a patchwork of armed groups. A statement by the groups said their goal was to “liberate the city of Aleppo” and to ensure that when it fell into their hands it would be ruled by strict sharia principles.



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