Syria’s rebels lost all of the northern neighbourhoods of their stronghold in east Aleppo on Monday, as the army gained significant ground in its offensive to recapture the entire city.
The regime’s advance has prompted an exodus of desperate civilians, some fleeing to districts held by the government or Kurdish forces, others heading south into areas still under rebel control.
The rebel losses suggested it was only a matter of time before all of east Aleppo — held by the opposition since 2012 — was back in government hands.
The loss of the city’s east would be a potentially devastating blow for Syria’s rebels, who have seen their territory fall steadily to the government since Russia began an intervention to bolster President Bashar al-Assad in September 2015.
On Monday, government forces seized the Sakhur, Haydariya and Sheikh Khodr districts, while Kurdish fighters took the Sheikh Fares neighbourhood from rebels, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitor said.
Kurdish forces in Syria are officially aligned with neither the government nor the rebels, but the opposition views them as effectively allied with the regime in its bid to recapture Aleppo city.
The advances left all of northeast Aleppo in government hands, and prompted more civilians to join a wave of displacement from the east.
On Sunday night, the Observatory said nearly 10,000 civilians had fled the east, with around 6,000 moving to the Kurdish-held Sheikh Maqsud neighbourhood and 4,000 to government-held west Aleppo.
Syrian state television showed footage of families disembarking from the green coaches regularly used to transport civilians and surrendering rebels from territory retaken by the government.