Syrian rebels cut through government forces in southern Aleppo, Al Jazeera TV reported Saturday, ending a weeks-long siege of 275,000 civilians in opposition-controlled neighborhoods in the city.
The rebel offensive, led by an Islamist alliance that includes fighters formerly pledged to al-Qaeda, overran several military bases this week. Syrian government forces, supported by Iranian-backed militias and Russian air power, besieged eastern Aleppo in July in what a monitoring group said was their most significant advance in the province since 2013.
Food supplies in eastern Aleppo, which has been controlled by opposition militias since July 2012, were expected to run out by mid-August, the United Nations humanitarian chief said last month. The surge in fighting has cast a pall over efforts to revive a broader cease-fire and resume talks on a political solution to the five-year conflict.
Russia’s military intervention in Syria last September turned the tide of the conflict in favor of President Bashar al-Assad. The war, which has killed more than 280,000 people and sent millions fleeing to neighboring countries and Europe, has also allowed Islamic State to seize territory that it has used as a base to direct and inspire terrorist attacks in Europe, the U.S. and elsewhere.
Separately, U.S.-backed Kurdish and Arab fighters expelled Islamic State militants from Manbij, a city about 90 kilometers (56 miles) east of Aleppo, according to Al Arabiya TV. Manbij is about 100 kilometers northwest of Raqqah, capital of Islamic State’s self-proclaimed caliphate, and served as a staging area for transporting jihadists in and out of Turkey.