By James Tweedie
Monday 5 December
SYRIAN government troops advanced deep into east Aleppo yesterday, routing Western-backed insurgents and driving them out of several key districts.
After liberating a swathe of territory west of the international airport on Saturday, paving the way for it to reopen, the army broke through into the built-up al-Jazmati district.
The troops kept up the momentum yesterday, capturing all of al-Jazmati along with the al-Myassar and Dahret Awwad neighbourhoods closer to the city centre.
According to the latest reports, soldiers were storming Qaterji, just a mile from the government-held western districts of Aleppo.
The army’s advance, which followed the speedy liberation of 40 per cent of extremist-held territory in the city last Monday, struck at the heart of the rebel strongholds.
The government victories have put three-fifths of the territory controlled by the hastily assembled alliance of factions now known as the Army of Aleppo under state control.
Helicopters dropped leaflets urging militants to lay down their arms and take advantage of the recently extended amnesty, after their leaders vowed to fight to the death.
Zakaria Malahifji, political officer with the Turkish-backed Fastaquim faction, said on Saturday: “I asked the factions, they said: ‘We will not surrender.’ The military commanders in Aleppo said: ‘We will not leave the city’.”
Last week, however, nearly 700 insurgents surrendered.
The rebel commanders’ answer was to continue shelling west Aleppo, killing five civilians and injuring 29 on Saturday. Ten more were wounded yesterday, including three children.