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Syria rebels mount fierce defence of key Aleppo dist

Rebels put up a fierce resistance on Friday in a key district of Syria’s battered Aleppo, where a regime offensive has left bodies in the streets and sparked a global outcry. The government assault on the northern city has spurred a mass exodus of thousands of residents from the opposition-held east and prompted fresh calls by Russia for aid corridors.

President Bashar al-Assad’s forces captured the city’s northeast this week and were focused on seizing Sheikh Saeed, a large district on the city’s southeast edges. But anti-government fighters put up a strong defence there overnight, rolling back recent government gains, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

“The regime and allied fighters... wanted to take this neighbourhood at any cost, because capturing it would allow them to target all remaining rebel-held districts,” said Observatory head Rami Abdel Rahman.

“But rebels put up ferocious resistance, because they knew they would be trapped if Sheikh Saeed fell,” Abdel Rahman added. The head of the Britain-based monitor said opposition forces were now once again in control of at least 70 per cent of the neighbourhood.

Sheikh Saeed borders the last remaining sections of Aleppo still in rebel hands -- a collection of densely populated residential neighbourhoods where thousands have sought refuge from advancing regime forces. In preparation for street-by-street fighting in these districts, hundreds of fighters from Syria’s elite Republican Guard and Fourth Division arrived in Aleppo today, according to the Observatory.
Agencies

Agencies

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