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Syria regains control of refugee camp north of Aleppo



Syrian soldiers, backed by pro-government fighters, have re-established control over a camp north of the embattled city of Aleppo after briefly losing it to foreign-backed militants following its liberation last week.

Militants and a monitoring group confirmed that the Syrian army and its allies captured the Handarat refugee camp following three days of heavy fighting with terrorists, adding that clashes were still underway in the area.

Syrian armed forces had gained control over the camp on Saturday, but it later fell to the so-called Fastaqim militant group.

The so-called Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a UK-based monitoring group which advocates the militants, also confirmed that government forces are now in control of the camp.

Handarat’s liberation is of high significance to the Syrian army as it facilitates the return of thousands of displaced Palestinian refugees to their homes there after over four years of violence in Aleppo.

Syrian government forces gather in the liberated Palestinian refugee camp of Handarat, north of Aleppo, on September 24, 2016. (Photo by AFP)


The first recapture of Handarat came days after the Syrian army launched a major offensive to retake the eastern neighborhoods of Aleppo, which have been controlled by Takfiri terrorists since 2012.

The operation began after a week-long ceasefire mediated by the United States and Russia expired on September 19.

Damascus, however, refused to extend it after US-led air raids killed 83 of its army forces and wounded some 100 others at a military base in the eastern province of Dayr al-Zawr in violation of the truce. The US-led strikes helped Daesh terrorists make a series of gains against army soldiers in the area.

On Thursday, Sergei Ryabkov, Russia’s deputy foreign minister, rejected US calls for a seven-day truce, saying such a pause in military operations would give militants enough time to regroup. Instead, he proposed a two-day ceasefire to facilitate the flow of relief aid into Aleppo.

Militants have suffered major setbacks over the past few months as the Syrian army, backed by Russian air cover, has managed to wrest control over several important areas across the country.

On September 25, Syria’s envoy to the United Nations Bashar al-Ja’afari told the UN Security Council that the country would not relinquish a single inch of its territory as per the Syrian constitution and the rules of international law.

“I would like to reassure them that the Syrian government will reclaim Aleppo in its entirety, and if the member states in this international organization have a single capital each, my country has two capitals: Damascus and Aleppo,” he said.

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