Activists: Insurgents advance in Syria's Aleppo

AP News
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Posted: Jun 18, 2015 10:31 AM

BEIRUT (AP) — Syrian rebels advanced into a second government-held neighborhood in the northern city of Aleppo on Thursday, activists said, a claim denied by state TV.

The reported push into the Khaldiyeh neighborhood came a day after insurgents captured the eastern neighborhood of Rashideen from troops and pro-government gunmen.

Aleppo, the country's largest city and former commercial capital, has seen heavy fighting since rebels seized part of the city in 2012. The recent push into government-held parts of Aleppo comes as President Bashar Assad's forces have suffered a series of setbacks in recent months, including the loss of Idlib, a northwestern provincial capital, in March.

Aleppo-based activists Ahmad al-Ahmad and Bahaa Halaby said several factions entered Khaldiyeh, which has a large Kurdish community, early Thursday.

State TV denied the claims and aired a report from Khaldiyeh. It had earlier denied the capture of Rashideen without providing any proof.

State TV and the activists said Rashideen was relatively quiet Wednesday afternoon after heavy fighting overnight.

Al-Ahmad and Halaby said a fuel shortage in Aleppo and nearby villages has worsened in recent days after the Islamic State group, which controls much of Syria's oilfields, prevented tanker trucks from supplying rebel-held neighborhoods. The IS group has battled both government forces and the insurgents, but in Aleppo the rebels say it is effectively helping the government by attacking their supply lines.

Al-Ahmad said the fuel shortages have driven up bread prices and caused power cuts in hospitals relying on generators.

"There is a humanitarian crisis. Some bakeries have closed and fewer vehicles are in the streets," al-Ahmad said.

The International Committee of the Red Cross meanwhile said Thursday that some 40,000 people are in "urgent need of basic services including water and electricity" in the Damascus suburb of Moadamiyeh. The ICRC and the Syrian Arab Red Crescent managed to enter Moadamiyeh this week to deliver aid for the first time since December, the statement said.

"The humanitarian situation is desperate," said the head of the ICRC in Syria, Marianne Gasser. "The streets are totally empty, shops closed. There is virtually no water and food is hard to come by. There has not been electricity in the city for two years. There is virtually no access to proper health care."

The ICRC and SARC brought in medicines for chronic diseases to treat around 5,000 patients, medicines for children, and medical equipment to help pregnant women during delivery.