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Regime advances in Aleppo amid world's preoccupation with Trump

Watch now: Rebels are concerned Trump's election could give regime a boost [Getty]

Date of publication: 10 November, 2016

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Video: Progress of rebel forces slows as Damascus steps up airstrikes and tightens its stranglehold on besieged areas of Aleppo.

Syria's regime and its allied forces on Wednesday seized a strategic position in Aleppo's western countryside, adding to other recent gains in the area, as rebels expressed concern Donald Trump's election, perceived as giving a boost to Assad.

Government forces took control of the al-Hikmeh school, just a day after capturing the 1070 Apartments district. Located on a hill, the school will allow the Assad regime to tighten their stranglehold on supply routes into Aleppo, particularly the Rashidin neighbourhood.

"By taking the school, the regime is trying to block the areas that the rebels can use to break the siege, in particular the axis of the 1070 Apartments district – Salaheddine neighborhood – Hamdanieh district," a spokesman of the Tajamu Fastaqem Kama Umert rebel group, told Lebanon's Daily Star.

He added that a rebel counter-offensive which began in late October has been hampered by intense bombardment.

"The regime is putting a great amount of pressure on rebels and the morale has been low, but we are still maintaining the status quo and reserve the advantage on the northern front. This is not the end of the battle," he added.

With the US, a key actor and broker in Syria's war, now in the midst of a power transition after Wednesday's presidential election, Moscow and Damascus have seized the moment to intensify their brutal military campaign.

Recently, a high ranking officer in Syria's army vowed that regime forces will "unleash hell" on rebel groups who are still resisting.

"Our military operations will focus on the towns of Haritan, Anadan, Hayyan, and Kafr Hamra," said Colonel Suheil Al-Hassan.

"We will unleash hell onto those towns if the terrorists do not surrender to our forces."

For their part, Syrian rebels say US President-elect Donald Trump's open-minded stance towards Assad's ally Russia may make things more difficult for them in Syria.

"I think things will become difficult because of Trump's statements and his relationship with Putin and Russia. I imagine this is not good for the Syrian issue," Zakaria Malahifji, head of the political office of an Aleppo-based rebel group, told Reuters.

Trump said in an Oct. 25 interview with Reuters that defeating Islamic State was a higher priority than persuading Assad to step down.

On the other hand, Reuters quoted a member of the Syrian regime parliament as saying he was cautiously optimistic that US policy would shift Assad's way under Trump. "We must be optimistic, but cautiously optimistic," Sherif Shehada, the MP, told Reuters in a telephone interview.

He said Gulf Arab states - which have backed the Syrian rebellion - had been depending on a Clinton victory and were now in "a predicament". "The American administration must carry out what it said in the election campaign."

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