BEIRUT — Thousands of Syrian civilians fled fierce fighting in Aleppo on Sunday as government forces moved within a mile of slicing the city’s last rebel-held stronghold in half.
At least 500 people have been killed and more than 1,000 wounded in a 13-day offensive led by President Bashar al-Assad’s troops on the east side of a city that has taken on huge symbolic importance in the Syrian civil war. Under siege and with no food aid left, half a million civilians are now trapped there. On Sunday, residents said they had nowhere left to run.
“My house is full,” said Bassem, who asked to be identified only by his first name for fear of retribution from the government. “The floors are packed but no one is sleeping.”
The fall of east Aleppo would devastate rebel ambitions to hold onto a rump state in northern Syria, and could hasten the government’s recapture of the entire country.
Assad’s soldiers — supported by Russian- and Iran-backed forces — advanced on the rebel-held districts in a pincer movement Sunday, taking the neighborhoods of Jabal Badra and Baadeen in the east and advancing slowly through al-Sakhur in the west.
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