Opposition activists said that Syrian government forces advanced in the city of Aleppo and its surroundings on Monday, in what appeared to be an attempt to encircle the neighborhoods controlled by the rebels in the largest city in northern Syria.
The Associated Press reported that if the government succeeded in this effort, it will represent the biggest blow to the opposition fighters since their entry into Aleppo two years ago.
The regime advance in Aleppo coincide with the advance of the Islamic State (IS) at the expense of opposition forces in areas stretching from Deir El-Zor on the Iraqi border to Aleppo countryside.
Rami Abdul Rahman, the director of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, based in Britain, said that regime reinforcements, including soldiers of the Republican Guards and fighters from Hezbollah, have recently arrived in Aleppo.
Both Abdul Rahman and another activist near Aleppo, using the pseudonymn 'Abu Hassan', said the fighting on Tuesday was concentrated near a military base known as School of Infantry seized by opposition fighters two years ago.
"The latest attack does not mean that Aleppo will fall, but the battle will be extremely difficult", Abdul Rahman said. He explained that it seems that the goal of government forces now is to try to control Handarat suburb in the north of Aleppo with the aim of clamping down on the opposition.
Government forces took control over Sheikh Najjar Industrial Zone last week, which allowed regime forces to choke parts of Aleppo under the control of the opposition. An officer in government forces told Syrian television that the army now controls the main road that runs north of Aleppo and "we have seized 80 percent of the area to the north of Aleppo". A Syrian television reporter said that explosives experts were dismantling the mines planted by the opposition fighters in the industrial area near Aleppo, pointing to the confiscation of large quantities of arms.
Government forces control most parts of the west of Aleppo, and they closed most of the southern entrances to the city, and are currently trying to close the entrances to the north-east, after they took control over the villages of Kafr as-Saghir and Muqbila to the north of Aleppo in the past few hours.
In Aleppo also, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights declared that helicopters threw explosive barrels on al-Hilwaniyah district in Tariq al-Bab neighborhood near the vegetable market. A woman and her daughter were killed when helicopters threw an explosive barrel on the neighborhood of Qadi Askar in the morning.
The Observatory said that "warplanes bombed Zetan area and the town of Darat Azza in the northern countryside of Aleppo, while other warplanes bombed areas in the town of Tal Rifaat in the northern countryside of Aleppo. A civilian was killed when the Islamic State bombarded areas in the town of Akhtarin in northern Aleppo countryside.