Syrian government forces on Tuesday captured new ground on the northwestern edge of the city of Aleppo, tightening the siege on rebel-held parts of the metropolis where some 300,000 people live, activists said.
The Syrian army also called on the opposition fighters to drop their weapons and give themselves up to authorities.
The push in which troops captured large parts of the city’s Layramoun area came as state TV reported that the General Army Command informed residents of rebel-held parts of Aleppo via telephone text messages that the army has created several safe passages and makeshift centers for whoever wants to leave those areas.
The army said it will keep providing Aleppo residents with basic necessities, but called all those living in rebel-held parts of the city to kick out “mercenaries and foreign fighters.”
Syrian government forces and their allies have been on the offensive around the Aleppo, Syria’s largest city and once its commercial center, for weeks.
Since earlier this month, they have tightened their siege and residents in rebel-held parts have been reporting food shortages.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and the Local Coordination Committees reported intense fighting and airstrikes before the capture of Layramoun areas.
Lebanese Hezbollah group’s Al-Manar TV aired footage of government forces pushing in what appeared to be an industrial area near Aleppo.
The station confirmed that President Bashar Assad’s forces capture of areas in Layramoun and near Castello road, the main link between rebel-held parts of Aleppo with the rest of the country.
Earlier on Tuesday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said that recent US-Russia discussions should encourage moderate Syrian opposition groups to leave areas occupied by al-Qaeda’s branch in Syria, thus helping to implement a truce.
Lavrov spoke to Russian news agencies after talks in Laos with US Secretary of State John Kerry, who visited Moscow earlier this month. Moscow and Washington have differed over the role of the Nusra Front, al-Qaida’s branch in Syria, with Russian calling the group terrorists and the US asking Russia not to target them for fear of hitting the moderate opposition.