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Syria Rebels Launch Counteroffensive In Aleppo; Russia Hosts Syrian, Iranian Ministers

RFE/RL October 28, 2016

Syrian activists say rebel fighters have launched a large-scale offensive in Aleppo, trying to break the government's siege of opposition-held, eastern districts.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a British-based organization with extensive on-the-ground contacts, said more than 15 civilians had been killed and 100 wounded by rebel shelling.

State media reported that five civilians were killed and the Syrian Army said its forces had repelled the attacks.

"The Syrian Army and its allies are in control on the ground and armed groups were not able to change the map," the statement said.

Once Syria's biggest city, Aleppo has become the main battlefield between President Bashar al-Assad's forces, backed by Iran, Russia, and Shi'ite militias, and Sunni rebels, which includes groups supported by Turkey, Persian Gulf states, and the United States.

The fighting on October 28 came as Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov met with his counterparts from Syria and Iran to discuss the Syrian conflict.

Lavrov said the Moscow meeting with Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Muallem and Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif was an effort to "hammer out a constructive solution" to the Syrian crisis.

Lavrov accused Western countries of "trying to distort the meaning of UN Security Council decisions" and encouraging "extremists in their unwillingness to stop their criminal acts."

He also repeated Moscow's assertion that neither Russian nor Syrian government aircraft had conducted air strikes in the Aleppo area for the last 10 days.

The Syrian war, now in its sixth year, has killed hundreds of thousands of people and displaced half the country's pre-war population, sending millions of refugees fleeing through the Middle East and Europe.

In his comments in Moscow, Lavrov also indicated that Russia was watching the ongoing offensive in Iraq to retake the city of Mosul, which has been held by Islamic State fighters since 2014.

Lavrov suggested Islamic State militants might try to move from Mosul into Syria. The city is the target of an Iraqi government offensive, backed by U.S. air power and Kurdish Peshmerga militia, to drive them out.

"We are interested in taking measures in collaboration with our Iraqi colleagues to prevent the exodus of terrorists from Mosul, which would, of course, aggravate the situation in Syria," Lavrov said.

With reporting by AFP, Reuters, AP, and TASS

Source: http://www.rferl.org/a/russia- lavrov-syria-iran-ministers-aleppo -fighting/28080252.html

Copyright (c) 2016. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.



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