Syrian army recaptures key Palestinian refugee camp in Aleppo

Syrian army recaptures key Palestinian refugee camp in Aleppo

Photo document of Syrian government soldier walks past a ruin in the city of Aleppo in northern Syria, Sept. 12, 2016. (Xinhua Photo)

Damascus (ANTARA News) - Syrian forces backed by Palestinian groups succeeded Saturday to recapture a camp of Palestinian refugees in the northern province of Aleppo from the hands of rebels, according to state news agency SANA.

The capture of Handarat camp, 13 km northeast of Aleppo, came after the Syrian army and Palestinian factions destroyed the last positions of the rebels there, SANA said.

Bomb squads started dismantling explosive devices and roadside bombs the rebels had planted.

Meanwhile, the rebels Jabhat Fateh al-Sham, previously known as Nusra Front before breaking ties with al-Qaida, said that the Syrian army and the Palestinian Liwa al-Quds succeeded to take the camp under heavy airstrikes from the Russian air force.

Wresting back control over Handarat consolidates the government forces control over the key road of Castello, which had been used by the rebels as a main supply route to areas under their control in eastern Aleppo, before the army captured it a couple of months ago.

In the beginning of last month, the rebels took control of the entire camp, following battles with the army.

The camp has a strategic importance as it overlooks several rebel-held areas in eastern Aleppo, which has become under tight government siege after the Syrian army captured Castello.

The Syrian Defense Ministry announced Thursday the commencement of a new offensive against rebel-held areas in eastern Aleppo, urging the civilians to leave immediately and the rebels to lay down their weapons.

On Friday, Syrian warplanes dropped leaflets over eastern Aleppo, renewing calls on civilians to stay away from the rebel positions and advising the rebels to surrender.

The renewed military showdown in Aleppo came just days after a Russian-U.S. brokered truce expired last Monday with no extension, due to the rising tension between Russia and the United States.

The Syrian army said in a statement that the rebels violated the week-long truce over 300 times, adding that the U.S.-led coalition struck positions of the Syrian army during the truce in Deir al-Zour, killing 90 soldiers, which was deemed by Russia as the biggest violation to the truce.

The U.S.-led attack on Syrian army positions in Deir al-Zour was the first since the coalition started operations in Syria two years ago. Washington said the attack was "unintentional," a claim totally rejected by the Syrian government, with President Bashar al-Assad saying the U.S.-led coalition intentionally struck the Syrian army posts in Deir al-Zour.

Aleppo has a strategic importance for the warring parties due to its location near the Turkish borders, and being Syrias largest province, and once the economic hub of Syria.