Syrian army closes in on Aleppo after dawn attack

November 8, 2013 17:38

ALEPPO - Forces loyal to President Bashar Assad, backed by a dawn barrage of artillery fire and air strikes, drove Syrian rebels from a strategic military base near the disputed northern city of Aleppo on Friday, a local photographer said.

The advance into Base 80, a large military position which rebels have held since February, will help Assad's forces move towards rebel-held areas of Aleppo city and follows a string of successful offensives this month.

But the fight continued on Friday afternoon after rebels regrouped and clashed with the army at the base, activists said. Opposition video footage showed rebels firing heavy machine guns.

Once Syria's most populous city, the former commercial hub of Aleppo has been divided roughly in half by the warring parties. Rebels hold most of Aleppo province but the government wants to keep a foothold in the north, where rebel supplies flood in from Turkey.

A photographer who supplies pictures to Reuters arrived at the scene about 1 km (0.6 miles) from Base 80 at dawn and said he saw around two dozen air strikes and artillery hitting insurgent positions.

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