Russia’s feared “Spetsnaz” special forces units have surrounded the Syrian city of Aleppo.
70,000 Syrian refugees are fleeing the area amid fierce fighting between ISIS and a coalition of Syrian government forces together with Russian special forces and Iranian-Lebanese Hezbollah fighters.
The commandos are said to be acting covertly with regime forces in retaking parts of Aleppo from ISIS militants after years of civil war.
The Daily Express reports:
Russian airstrikes have intensified in recent days in a bid to crush ISIS and rival rebel groups that have laid claim to vast swathes of the city since the civil war erupted in 2011.
David Daoud, a Middle East analyst at the Foundation for Defence of Democracies, told an American news website: “Russian-Hezbollah cooperation and coordination in Syria has been going on since the outset of Russia’s entry into the civil war.”
“Iranian and Hezbollah sources have openly admitted, on a number of occasions, that Hezbollah ground operations during key battles in the war were carried out with Russian air support.
“So it wouldn’t be surprising that there’s now cooperation between Hezbollah’s ground forces and Russian special forces.”
The last two days has seen government troops alongside Lebanese and Iranian fighters encircle the countryside north of Aleppo and cut off the main supply route linking the city – Syria’s largest before the war – to Turkey.
Ankara said it suspected the aim was to starve the population into submission.
Tens of thousands of Syrians have fled the area.
Video footage showed thousands of people massing at the Bab al-Salam crossing on the Turkish border.
Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said on Friday 15,000 people had arrived at the Turkish border. while a Turkish charity says about 50,000 people have amassed at the border crossing.
Hassan Haj Ali, head of Liwa Suqour al-Jabal, a rebel group fighting in northwest Syria, said: “The Russian (air) cover continues night and day, there were more than 250 air strikes on this area in one day.
“The regime is now trying to expand the area it has taken control of.
“Now the northern countryside (of Aleppo) is totally encircled, and the humanitarian situation is very difficult.”
Reclaiming Aleppo would be the biggest strategic prize in years for President Bashar al-Assad’s government – and would represent a turning point in the five year war.
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