Fighters from the former Al-Nusra Front -- renamed Fateh al-Sham Front after breaking from Al-Qaeda -- pose for a photo after they recaptured an armament school south of Aleppo on August 6, 2016, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said
A Syrian rebel coalition seized key positions south of Aleppo on Saturday as they continued to press a major offensive to break the government siege of the city, a monitor said.
"The Army of Conquest on Saturday took control of the armament school, where there is a large amount of ammunitions, and a large part of the artillery school" at a military academy south of the city, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
The seizure of the school, where rebel sources told Middle East Eye Hezbollah and Iraqi milita fighters were being housed and trained, is expected to cut the supply route into government-held districts of western Aleppo.
However, rebels will still have to "seize the adjoining area of Ramussa [in south Aleppo] to lift the siege on the rebel districts," Observatory chief Rami Abdel Rahman said.
"This is a battle of life and death for the regime and for Russia," which has been a key ally of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, Abdel Rahman added.
Rebels launched a dual-front counter offensive on Monday and have been trying to put pressure on pro-government forces in southern Aleppo while also pushing north from rebel-held countryside to the south.
Jabhat Fateh al-Sham - formerly the Nusra Front and until recently al-Qaeda's Syrian affiliate which is seen as a terrorist organisation by the West - has played a key part in the conter-offensive.
Pro-government forces – reportedly made up of Syrian army and Hezbollah fighters and backed up by Russian air power – have responded by launching fierce air strikes over Aleppo. The government managed to roll back some rebel advances on Thursday, but the tide seems to have turned again in the battle to try to control what was Syria’s biggest city before the conflict broke out more than five years ago.
Pro-government forces besieged rebel-held east Aleppo in mid-July, trapping up to 300,000 people and sparking fears of a pending humanitarian catastrophe. According to a localmonitoring group, the Syrian Institute for Justice, hundreds of civilians have been killed since the siege began.
Ahmad Omar, a Free Syrian Army field commander who has fought against pro-government troops and Jabhat Fateh al-Sham, told Middle East Eye earlier this week that his forces were launching daily counter-attacks on the Ramussa frontline in southern Aleppo.
Omar said his men were also fighting in the neighbouring district of Hamdania and that they had re-taken control of it earlier this week after killing more than 40 pro-government fighters and their Hezbollah allies. Fierce gun battles raged for hours as the rebels fought to gain control of the key strategic area, he said.
“The warplanes have never stopped since we announced our march [on Monday],” Omar told MEE.
“We took many areas on the first day, and it was a kind of a shock to them [the pro-government forces], so they went on a shooting frenzy and even shot their own frontline in Hamdania twice by mistake.”
A coalition of Syrian rebel groups also took control of an artillery warehouse from the Syrian army on Saturday morning