Hundreds of thousands of civilians could be cut off from food if Syrian government forces encircle rebel-held parts of Aleppo, the United Nations said on Tuesday, warning of a new exodus of refugees fleeing a Russian-backed assault.
The army aims to secure the border with Turkey and recover control of Aleppo, a senior adviser to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad told Reuters, adding that she did not expect diplomacy to succeed while foreign states maintain support for insurgents.
Syrian government forces, backed by Russian air strikes and Iranian and Lebanese Hezbollah fighters, have launched a major offensive in the countryside around Aleppo, which has been divided between government and rebel control for years.
It marks one of the most important shifts of momentum in the five-year civil war that has killed 250,000 people and already driven 11 million from their homes.
Since last week, fighting has already wrecked the first attempt at peace talks for two years and led rebel fighters to speak about losing their northern power base altogether.