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Syrian forces seize village near Aleppo

Syrian regime forces have tightened the noose around rebel-held parts of northern Aleppo [Getty]

Date of publication: 14 February, 2016

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Backed by Russian airstrikes, Syrian regime forces captured a village near Aleppo on Saturday, enabling further advances towards encircling key rebel areas in Syria’s largest city.
Syrian government forces captured another village near Aleppo on Saturday, tightening the noose around rebel-held parts of the northern city.

The ground attack in Aleppo province sparked artillery shelling by Turkish troops at Kurdish positions, as Ankara appears to be worried that Syrian Kurdish fighters and Syrian government forces might reach the northern town of Azaz – home to a major border crossing point that has been controlled by militants since 2012.

Turkish troops fired five shells at the mountains of the coastal province of Latakia that recently witnessed intense clashes between government forces and Turkish-backed gunmen, Syrian state TV reported late Saturday night.

State TV and the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said troops captured Tamoura on Saturday around noon, amid intense shelling and air raids by Russian warplanes.

Syrian troops have been advancing under cover of Russian airstrikes with the aim of besieging rebel-held parts of Aleppo, Syria's largest city.

If they are able to do so, it will be the biggest defeat for insurgents since the conflict began in March 2011.

If they are able to do so, it will be the biggest defeat for insurgents since the conflict began in March 2011

After capturing Tamoura, the troops still have to take several more villages and towns, including Hayan, Anadan, Hreitan and Kfar Hamra, in order to completely encircle the Aleppo rebels.

Hizballah-run al-Manar TV said troops are now overlooking the town of Hayan and parts of Anadan.

The Lebanese militant group is fighting alongside forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Al-Manar later aired live footage from an area overlooking Anadan in which Syrian troops were heavily pounding the area with artillery shells and white smoke could be seen billowing from several spots on the open area.

To the north, warplanes carried out more than 20 air raids on the town of Tel Rifaat, a stronghold of the powerful ultraconservative Ahrar al-Sham group, according to the Observatory and activist Amer Hassan who is currently in the nearby town of Azaz.

Tel Rifaat is about 15 kilometres  from the border with Turkey.

"Today is one of the worst days since the revolution began," said Hassan via Skype, adding that activists counted 46 air raids on Tel Rifaat alone Saturday. "We have not seen such intense air raids before."

Today is one of the worst days since the revolution began...We have not seen such intense air raids before
- Syrian activist

Tel Rifaat is one of the biggest strongholds for militants in Aleppo province.

"If Tel Rifaat falls, it means that all northern parts of Aleppo will follow," Hassan added.

Saturday's fighting comes a day after the United States and Russia announced a plan to halt the violence within a week, but it's unclear whether fighters on the ground will adhere to it.

Delivery of humanitarian aid

The UN refugees agency, UNRWA, said it was able to deliver "urgently needed humanitarian supplies" to civilian residents in the besieged Palestinian refugee camp of Yarmouk in Damascus for the first time in nine months.

Although UN agency members did not enter the camp itself, they were able to reach the nearby area of Yalda, where 900 families from Yarmouk, Yalda and the neighbouring areas of Babila and Beit Sahem were provided with 35-kilogramme of food parcels, UNRWA Spokesperson Chris Gunness said.

Despite the fact that some humanitarian assistance has entered these areas since the last UNRWA distribution in June "humanitarian needs remain acute," Gunness said.

Despite the fact that some humanitarian assistance has entered these areas since the last UNRWA distribution in June, humanitarian needs remain acute

"There are clear indications that disease is on the rise, particularly among the most vulnerable such as children. There is an acute lack of medicines to treat them," Gunness said in a statement.

The camp was captured by the extremist Islamic State group in April last year.

In the suburbs of Damascus, the Syrian Arab Red Crescent transported four trucks of aid into an area on the edge of Douma.

The supplies included baby formula and medicine for people suffering from chronic diseases, Operations Director at the SARC Hazem Baqleh said.

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